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 Boxer (D-Calif.).  

{mosads}”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 Johnson (R-Wisc.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), and Tim Kaine (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 Inhofe (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. 

Tags Barbara Boxer Christopher Coons Dick Durbin Ed Markey Jeanne Shaheen Marco Rubio Ron Johnson Tim Kaine
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