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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 BoxerBottom line Trump administration halting imports of cotton, tomatoes from Uighur region of China Biden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status 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 JohnsonBiden picks vocal Trump critics to lead immigration agencies Trump's early endorsements reveal GOP rift The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings MORE (R-Wisc.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinSchumer warns Democrats can't let GOP block expansive agenda Holder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms MORE (D-Ill.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioJon Stewart accuses VA of being 'an obstacle' to burn pits medical care Family policy that could appeal to the right and the left Exclusive: GOP senators seek FBI investigation into Biden Pentagon nominee MORE (R-Fla.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenGOP lawmaker 'encouraged' by Biden's Afghanistan strategy Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Lawmakers express horror at latest Capitol attack MORE (D-N.H.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyHillicon Valley: Supreme Court sides with Google in copyright fight against Oracle | Justices dismiss suit over Trump's blocking of critics on Twitter | Tim Cook hopes Parler will return to Apple Store Democrats press Facebook on plans for Instagram for kids Give Republicans the climate credit they deserve MORE (D-Mass.), Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsSchumer warns Democrats can't let GOP block expansive agenda Inflation rears its head amid spending debate CEOs say proposed Biden tax hike would hurt competitiveness MORE (D-Del.), and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats back up Biden bid to return to Iran nuclear deal Overnight Defense: Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers | Diversity chief at Special Operations Command reassigned during probe into social media posts Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers 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 InhofeBiden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike Sanders expresses 'serious concerns' with Biden's defense increase 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.