Bipartisan Senate bill urges arms, support for Kurds

Bipartisan Senate bill urges arms, support for Kurds
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A bipartisan pair of senators is proposing legislation to give weapons and other means of support to Kurdish peshmerga forces in Iraq as they battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The proposal by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerThe ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response MORE (D-Calif.) would provide three-year, emergency authority for the president to provide weapons and training directly to Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces, an iniative that could be falling out of a larger Defense Department bill.

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The measure is meant to reduce delays in arming Kurdish fighters, who are widely regarded as highly trained and have often led the charge in retaking territory seized last year by the terrorist group.

“ISIS is deadly and determined, and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces — our critical partner in the fight against ISIS — need U.S. weapons as quickly as possible,” Ernst, who served in Iraq as a lieutenant colonel with the Iowa National Guard, said in a Wednesday floor speech.

“This three-year authorization would bolster efforts against ISIS, which is critical to maintaining a unified and stable Iraq, and imperative to our national security interests. We simply cannot afford future delays at this critical moment in the battle,” according to Ernst, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

The bill is co-sponsored by a foursome of Senate Republicans, including 2016 GOP presidential contenders Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Key ObamaCare groups in limbo | Opioids sending thousands of kids into foster care | House passes bill allowing Medicaid to pay for opioid treatments US watchdog: 'We failed' to stem Afghan opium production Senate passes 6B defense bill MORE (Ky.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump Hillicon Valley: New FTC chief eyes shake up of tech regulation | Lawmakers target Google, Huawei partnership | Microsoft employees voice anger over ICE contract Lawmakers urge Google to drop partnership with Chinese phone maker Huawei MORE (Fla.). Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump says he will sign executive order to end family separations Trump backs narrow bill halting family separations: official Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Trump officials move to expand non-ObamaCare health plans | 'Zero tolerance' policy stirs fears in health community | New ObamaCare repeal plan MORE (R-S.C.), who is weighing a White House bid, and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate probes FBI's heavy-handed use of redactions to obstruct congressional investigators Hillicon Valley: DHS gets new cyber chief | White House warns lawmakers not to block ZTE deal | White nationalists find home on Google Plus | Comcast outbids Disney for Fox | Anticipation builds for report on FBI Clinton probe Graham jokes about Corker: GOP would have to be organized to be a cult MORE (Wisc.), a top Democratic target in 2016, also have backed the measure. 

The bipartisan push comes days after a senior House Republican signaled that lawmakers are rethinking a provision in that chamber’s version of the fiscal 2016 defense policy bill that would grant $715 million in military assistance to the Kurds.

"I think there is a way to streamline the process of getting the weapons to both the Sunni tribes and the peshmerga, where it is desperately needed to defeat ISIS, while at the same time not undermining the government of Iraq in Baghdad," House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told the Associated Press on Sunday, after visiting Baghdad and meeting with Iraqi officials.

The move came in response to a Sunday statement by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that "reasserted his stand regarding Iraq's rejection to the bill of the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services referring that any external support to Iraq should be through the central government to keep Iraq's sovereignty; as such bills undermine the efforts of fighting Da'esh and leads to polarization in the region."

In a statement, Boxer said the Kurds have been a “steadfast and capable partner of the United States, and this bill will help ensure they have the support they need in the fight against” ISIS.