Republican war-policy writers are demanding that the United States recognize Kurdish and Sunni militias as their own “country” amid growing concerns about Iran’s influence over Baghdad.
The House Armed Services Committee on April 27 released an annual Defense bill that authorizes $715 million in aid to Iraqi forces fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). The bill, which is scheduled to be debated and voted on in the committee on April 29, carves out at least 25% of that aid for the peshmerga, the Sunni tribal militias and a yet-to-be-established Iraqi Sunni National Guard.
The bill “would require that the Kurdish peshmerga, the Sunni tribal security forces with a national security mission, and the Iraqi Sunni National Guard be deemed a country,” according to a bill summary. Doing so “would allow these security forces to directly receive assistance from the United States.”
The Obama administration has expressed some degree of support for giving Iraqi minorities more autonomy, with Secretary of State John Kerry and the president himself applauding the idea of a National Guard. A senior administration official, however, told Al-Monitor that the Defense bill proposal goes too far.
The draft bill from Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, goes on to require the State and Defense secretaries to certify that the central government in Baghdad is giving non-Shiite minorities a greater say in how the country is run. If progress on certain conditions isn’t apparent within three months of the bill’s passage — political inclusiveness, authorization the National Guard, ending support for Shiite militias — the remaining 75% of the aid would be withheld from Baghdad and at least 60% of it would go straight to the Kurds and Sunnis.