Honolulu Star-Advertiser: Gabbard urges U.S. to supply weapons to Kurds
By William Cole
After meeting Iraqi leaders in Erbil and Baghdad this week, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard reiterated a call to provide weapons and equipment directly to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State — something the White House opposes because it does not want to see Iraq fracture even more.
“The Kurds have proven to be trusted, effective partners on the ground in Iraq and Syria, and they continue to bravely fight against and defeat ISIS,” Gabbard said, using another term for Islamic State.
While the Kurds continue to show “optimism and commitment” in their fight against ISIS, the need for heavy weapons remains, Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat, said in a news release Tuesday.
“The U.S. can and must do more to get the (Kurdish) Peshmerga the heavy weapons and support they need to continue their success,” she said.
Gabbard, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a captain in the Hawaii Army National Guard who deployed on two tours to the Middle East, is part of a seven-member House and Senate delegation that is wrapping up a trip to Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey.
Gabbard, who is expected back in Hawaii on Friday, met separately with Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
U.S. military aid to Iraq is dispersed solely through the Shia-led central government, which has not supplied the Kurds with the equipment they need, Gabbard said. She also stressed the importance of providing “immediate support” to the Sunni tribes of western Iraq where ISIS has made inroads.
“While representatives of the Iraqi central government speak about the need to provide more weapons and support to Sunni tribes to fight against ISIS in Ramadi and other areas in (western Anbar province), they lack the plans, the will and the sense of urgency that war against ISIS demands,” Gabbard said. “Time and again, I have heard from many stakeholders of the deep divide and long-held distrust between the Sunni tribes and Kurds and the Shia government.”
While Prime Minister al-Abadi spoke of reconciliation, the reality is that Shia policies continue and along with Iran’s growing influence “erode any possibility that so-called reconciliation is possible,” Gabbard said.
In late April, the House Armed Services Committee included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act requiring 25 percent of $715 million in assistance for Iraqi opposition of ISIS to go directly to Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Sunni fighters.
White House concerns remain that an emboldened Kurdistan might seek full independence and further destabilize the region with the split of Iraq into a three-state region dominated by Kurds, Sunnis and Shia.
Gabbard supports the creation of three separate autonomous or semi-autonomous regions — the “three-state solution” — as a way to empower the Sunnis, Kurds and Shia with their own homelands, self-governance and security forces.
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