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 BoxerKamala Harris on 2020 presidential bid: ‘I’m not ruling it out’ The ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor 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 PaulConservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report MORE (Ky.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio unloads on Turkish chef for 'feasting' Venezuela's Maduro: 'I got pissed' For Poland, a time for justice Judiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh MORE (Fla.). Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin Graham GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Collins: Kavanaugh accuser should 'reconsider,' testify on Monday Grassley willing to send staff to California to speak with Kavanaugh accuser MORE (R-S.C.), who is weighing a White House bid, and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow House panel advances DHS cyber vulnerabilities bills 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.