U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, D–Hawaii, opposed arming Syrian rebels in the war against the terrorist group ISIL (also known as ISIS or the Islamic State), but today she said she’s sponsoring bi-partisan legislation to “directly arm” the Kurdish army–known as the Peshmerga–in Iraq.
Here’s how Gabbard put it in a Nov. 20 news release from her office:
“The Kurdish Peshmerga are courageously fighting to destroy ISIL. They are the primary offensive force fighting against ISIL on the ground, and are doing so with inadequate weapons and resources. We should be doing everything we can to get them the heavy weapons and equipment they need to support their fight to eliminate our common enemy. This bipartisan legislation will help level the playing field for this fighting force, which is vastly outgunned and mostly using outdated light weapons. Systemic changes need to occur within the structure of the Iraqi government, but we cannot wait; we must stop routing these weapons through a still dysfunctional Shiite-led central Iraqi government, which has thus far withheld necessary support to the Peshmerga, and provide equipment and heavy weapons directly to the Kurds. Their needs are urgent. We cannot waste any more time, as ISIL continues to grow, increasing the threat to the United States and our partners.”
The bill, known as H.R. 5747, was led by Representatives Ed Royce (R-California) and Eliot Engel (D-New York). Gabbard herself is a captain in the Hawaii National Guard and a veteran of the Iraq War.
But it’s unclear how this would actually work, especially given that the Pentagon has apparently already promised to start sending small arms and ammunition to the Kurds. In fact, on August 12 of this year, Foreign Policy reported that the Pentagon was promising to send weapons “directly” to the Peshmerga:
“..Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon would arm the Kurds directly — assistance they’ve been requesting since the Islamic State turned its sights on Kurdistan — with AK-47s, mortars, and ammunition. Before, all assistance flowed through Baghdad’s Shiite-led government. When the Sunni fighters overran the Iraqi security forces earlier this summer, the government troops abandoned much of their equipment, including U.S.-provided tanks. The Islamic State then seized it. A Pentagon official wouldn’t rule out providing anti-tank weapons and other materiel to the pesh. ‘The U.S. government is coordinating with the government of Iraq to help fill these [weapons] requests as quickly as possible,’ a State Department official told Situation Report in an email.”
Photo of Peshmerga Special Forces: Enno Lenze/Wikimedia Commons