As Washington weighs changes in its strategy to fight the radical Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, the head of the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee has introduced a new wrinkle into the debate: providing weapons and military equipment directly to the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Peshmerga forces.
Traditionally, Baghdad has to sign off on any arms transfers to the Peshmerga, a 190,000-strong ground force that has recently had some success fighting the militants, after being outfought for much of the summer.
But this new legislation, which if not passed by the 113th Congress by Dec. 31 would have to be resubmitted for consideration next year in the Republican-controlled 114th Congress, would provide “anti-tank and anti-armor weapons, armored vehicles, long-range artillery, crew-served weapons and ammunition, secure command and communications equipment” to the Kurdish forces
In a Nov. 20 statement, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., said that “our critical partner in the fight against ISIL is badly outgunned. Despite being armed mainly with antiquated weapons, the Iraqi Kurdish ‘Peshmerga’ forces have proven to be the most effective ground force currently fighting ISIL. For months, I have urged the Administration to urgently arm the Kurds. So too have many others in Congress. This important legislation will finally allow the 190,000-strong force to get the firepower it needs to effectively fight this brutal terrorist organization.”
Royce’s bill would also give President Barack Obama the leeway to include more defense items “that the President determines to be appropriate.”