Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member, introduced H.R. 1654, bipartisan legislation to provide arms directly to the Kurdistan Regional Government.  The legislation, which largely mirrors legislation introduced last year (H.R. 5747), provides temporary authority for President Obama to provide weapons directly to the 190,000 strong Iraqi Kurdish “Peshmerga” forces fighting ISIL on the ground.

Supporting local ground forces is central to the Administration’s attempt to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIL.  But the United States has only provided limited “resupply” of light weapons to the Iraqi Kurds, and only after the Iraqi government in Baghdad signs off on every shipment.  To date, the Administration has not provided Iraqi Kurds with the heavy weapons and armored vehicles that they need to effectively fight ISIL. Meanwhile, U.S. plans to train and equip three new Kurdish brigades for counteroffensive operations have only just started.  [Section-by-section summary is available HERE.]

Chairman Royce said: “Our critical partner in the fight against ISIL is in great need of heavy weapons and armored vehicles.  We haven’t gotten Iraqi Kurdish ‘Peshmerga’ forces what they need.  Even so, they have proven to be the most effective ground force currently fighting ISIL.  It is critical that the Administration provide Peshmerga forces with the weapons they need.  This legislation streamlines the process to better aid this reliable U.S. partner as it continues its fight against ISIL.”

Ranking Member Engel said: “The Peshmerga forces are ‘boots on the ground’ in the fight against ISIL.  They are fierce, capable, and determined, but they need the right tools to get the job done.  We should be doing everything in our power to get weapons and equipment to Kurdish fighters.  The legislation that Chairman Royce and I are offering would speed that process and enhance the capabilities of this critical partner.”

In addition to authorizing the provision of weapons directly to Peshmerga forces, this legislation:

  • makes it the policy of the United States to provide direct assistance to the Kurdistan Regional Government to combat ISIL;
  • identifies Iraqi Kurds as a reliable and stable partner of the United States;
  • recognizes that the Peshmerga are the official security force of the Kurdistan Regional Government, organized in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution;
  • finds that defeating ISIL is critical to maintaining an inclusive, unified Iraq;
  • emphasizes that ISIL is a significant terrorist threat which may employ more than 4,000 captured heavy weapons, 1,500 armored vehicles, and 50 long-range artillery pieces;
  • maintains existing congressional oversight of significant arms transfers;
  • sunsets after three years, in recognition of the emergency nature of this authority.

A section-by-section summary of H.R. 1654 is available HERE.

The text of H.R. 1654 is available HERE.

Note: On September 18, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry testified to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs about the provision of direct military assistance to the Kurds, noting: “We have to send it to the government [in Baghdad] because that’s the U.S. law.  If you want to change it, fix it, we invite you…”