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February 16, 2016 6:10 am

The US Should Arm the Kurds, Not the Shiite Militias, in Iraq

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avatar by Joseph Puder

Armed anti-American insurgents in Iraq in 2006. Photo: Wikipedia.

Armed anti-American insurgents in Iraq in 2006. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Obama administration has provided the Iraqi army with military hardware worth billions of dollars. Iraq’s main power brokers are Iraqi Shiite militias, who are loyal to Iran. This raises the question as to why American taxpayers should provide an ally of Iran, and a potential enemy of the US, with such enormous aid.

The Iraqi army’s shameful performance against the Islamic State (ISIS) and its abandonment of vast territory to ISIS, along with the squandering of huge quantities of US supplied arms, brings into question the suitability of the Iraqi army to take on ISIS. The Iraqi-Shiite militias may very well turn against the US in the not-too-distant future. Moreover, some Shiite militias have been shown to be as brutal and blood-thirsty as ISIS.

The Kurdish Peshmerga, meanwhile, have fought valiantly against ISIS, and liberated territory previously captured by ISIS in northern Iraq. Yet, the US refrains from sending arms directly to Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). This absurdity of denying strong allies and friends of the US first-rate arms, while supplying them to possible Iranian proxies, is irrational if not outrageous.

The Huffington Post reported on June 29, 2015, that, “President Barack Obama’s strategy for combating the extremist Islamic State group is still evolving. But for some members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, one flaw in the plan has been clear for months: All of the weapons being sent to fight the extremists (IS) in Iraq are being routed through the central government in Baghdad, rather than directly to the country’s more US-friendly Kurdistan region.”

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Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) made the point that the US cannot wait in providing critical arms to the Kurds. Ernst, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, offered an amendment that would allow the administration to directly ship weapons to the Kurds. However, the measure did not pass. Under the current law, the US government cannot send arms to autonomous regions like the KRG. Sadly, the US should long ago have recognized an independent Kurdistan, since the KRG is a de facto independent political reality. In addition, the Kurds are the only reliable US ally in Iraq and Syria.

Instead, the US is coordinating its air action in Iraq with the Islamic Republic of Iran. And ironically, both Iran and the Obama administration are obscuring the extent of their coordination with each other in Iraq.

The Obama administration must remember what happened in Afghanistan. The US provided the Mujahideen fighting the Soviets with shoulder-held Stinger missiles and other lethal weapons. Subsequently, the Mujahideen used US weapons to fight against Americans.

Iran is a far more dangerous American foe than the Taliban, and with its long-range delivery systems and eventually nuclear weapons, the last thing the US needs is to provide Iran’s proxies with lethal arms. To stop ISIS, the US needs to provide the courageous Peshmerga Kurdish fighters with heavy weapons. Erbil, not Baghdad, should be the US address for arms shipments.

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