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 BoxerOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Hispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list 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 JohnsonFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Barr throws curveball into Senate GOP 'spying' probe Bipartisan group of senators introduce legislation designed to strengthen cybersecurity of voting systems MORE (R-Wisc.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Senate Democrats request watchdog, Red Cross probe DHS detention facilities Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran MORE (D-Ill.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump GOP senators work to get Trump on board with new disaster aid package MORE (R-Fla.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: Details on Senate's 0B defense bill | Bill rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps | Backfills money for border wall | Defense chief says more troops could head to Mideast Senate defense bill would pull Turkey from F-35 partnership if it buys Russian missile system Trump, Europe increasingly at odds on Iran MORE (D-N.H.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Senate passes anti-robocall bill The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump MORE (D-Mass.), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOil companies join blitz for carbon tax Mnuchin says carbon capture tax credit guidance will be out soon Mnuchin signals administration won't comply with subpoena for Trump tax returns MORE (D-Del.), and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Details on Senate's 0B defense bill | Bill rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps | Backfills money for border wall | Defense chief says more troops could head to Mideast Dem senator plans amendment to restrict military action against Iran Overnight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info 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: Details on Senate's 0B defense bill | Bill rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps | Backfills money for border wall | Defense chief says more troops could head to Mideast Senate panel rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps, advances defense bill that backfills wall money Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences 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.