In a recent op-ed published in the Washington Times, Douglas Burton cited a list of politicians and U.S. national security experts who say that the United States should arm the Kurds directly. Burton, a former U.S. State Department who worked in Iraq from 2005 to 2007, argues that by arming the Kurds, Washington can ensure that the self-proclaimed Islamic State is degraded and ultimately destroyed.
A Bipartisan Issue in Congress
When the U.S. Senate voted in June to provide funds that would directly arm the Kurdish Peshmerga, both Democrats and Republicans supported the bill. Although the bill was ultimately voted down, many U.S. Senators are outspoken in their support for arming the Kurds directly. Republican Senator Joni Ernst from Iowa, who is an Army veteran of the Iraq War, called the Kurdish Peshmerga “our critical partner in the fight against ISIS.” Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer from California, also expressed support for the Kurds, saying that they have been a “steadfast and capable partner of the United States.”
Support of U.S. Security Experts
James Hanson, vice president at the Center for Security Policy, is one of many U.S. national security experts who supports directly arming the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan. “We should arm the Kurds,” said Hanson in the Washington Times op-ed. “It would make all the difference in the world. Baghdad has stopped shipping all heavy weaponry to Kurdish forces… Giving heavy arms to the Peshmerga would increase the stability of the [Kurdish] region in Iraq.”
Christopher Harmer, a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), has also expressed concern with the current route of armament, which goes through Baghdad. Harmer says that the current route of armament is both “inconsistent and inadequate” because the Iraqi Government is preoccupied with using US funds to equip and train its own Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), who have consistently underperformed in battle against ISIS.
Hope of a Future NDAA
An amendment to allow the direct armament of the Kurds was included in the recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was put before the Senate in mid-June. The bill did not pass, and some Senators who voted against the bill expressed concerns that the direct armament of the Kurds would undermine the United States’ relationship with the Iraqi Government. Critics of the bill also said that the direct armament of the Peshmerga would send the wrong message to Turkey, a NATO member that has been preoccupied with the militarization of the Kurdish PKK within its borders for many years.
Despite this vote, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Kurdish Peshmerga remain some of the strongest forces battling ISIS on the front lines of Iraq. In his op-ed, Burton claims that the amendment to the NDAA that would have authorized the United States to directly arm the Peshmerga is more than likely to come up for reconsideration. If it does come up again, and is voted through, the United States may be able to ship anti-tank weaponry, body armor and communications equipment directly to the Kurdish peshmerga.