Senators press Iraq PM to supply Kurds

A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to the Iraqi prime minister Monday to ask him to ensure that his government is distributing aid to the Kurdish minority in northern Iraq who are under threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.  

"We have heard firsthand about the suffering and harsh conditions facing these men, women, and children-many of whom have taken refuge in Iraq's Kurdistan region," wrote a group of eight senators, led by Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerTrump decries 'defund the police' after Boxer attacked Former Sen. Barbara Boxer attacked in California Bottom line MORE (D-Calif.).  

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"These civilians are in dire need of basic necessities-food, clean water, and shelter. In particular, we are concerned about the welfare of women and children-who make up a majority of the displaced population," the letter said.  

"As such, we respectfully ask that you take every action to ensure there are no gaps or delays in aid distribution, and that available assistance is dispersed without any discrimination based on sect, ethnicity, or religion," it said. 

The letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi was also signed by Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Ron Johnson praises conservative author bashed by Fauci Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans MORE (R-Wisc.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinCongress should butt out of Supreme Court's business Inmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (D-Ill.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal Break glass in case of emergency — but not for climate change Democrats join GOP in pressuring Biden over China, virus origins MORE (R-Fla.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE (D-N.H.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyHuman rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Nearly 140 Democrats urge EPA to 'promptly' allow California to set its own vehicle pollution standards Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE (D-Mass.), Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Lack of transatlantic cooperation on trade threatens global climate change goals MORE (D-Del.), and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineThis week: Senate starts infrastructure sprint Overnight Defense: Watchdog blasts government's handling of Afghanistan conflict | Biden asks Pentagon to look into mandatory vaccines | Congress passes new Capitol security bill GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate MORE (D-Va.).   

While their letter focused on humanitarian aid, lawmakers have also been concerned that the Iraqi government, dominated by Shia, has been withholding U.S. military assistance from Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga.  

"I am concerned by the varying reports I have received from the Obama administration about the equipment and support that has been provided to the Kurds to date," said Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: Biden administration expands Afghan refugee program | Culture war comes for female draft registration | US launches third Somalia strike in recent weeks Up next in the culture wars: Adding women to the draft Gillibrand expects vote on military justice bill in fall MORE (R-Okla.) on Friday.  

So far, the U.S. has preferred to distribute aid through the central government, in hopes of fostering political reconciliation between Iraq's political groups.  

"We still believe that that's the right approach, that the material assistance that they receive should come through the Iraqi government," said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby on Friday. 

"But it doesn't mean that we've taken our, you know, eye off the fact that they continue to need sustenance and support," Kirby added. "And obviously, we, you know, we're going to continue to look for ways to make sure they get that. But again, through the Iraqi government in Baghdad." 

Lawmakers last week met directly with members of the KRG, who asked for direct military assistance from the U.S.  

Inhofe said resources should include training, light and heavy weapons, vehicles, counter-IED support and support equipment. 

The U.S. and coalition partners have helped deliver weapons to the Kurds from the Iraqi government, and have provided some combat and weapons training already.