ISIS is deadly and determined, and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces – our critical partner in the fight against ISIS – need U.S. weapons as quickly as possible. This three-year authorization would bolster efforts against ISIS which is critical to maintaining a unified and stable Iraq, and imperative to our national security interests. We simply cannot afford future delays at this critical moment in the battle.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) took to the Senate floor to speak about the critical need for the United States to provide direct assistance to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in support of the fight against ISIS. The Iowa Senator urged her colleagues to support bipartisan legislation she introduced yesterday with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) which provides temporary, emergency authority for the President to provide weapons and training directly to Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

Read the legislation here.

 

Click here or on the image below to watch.

 

TRANSCRIPT

SENATOR ERNST:  Mr. President, as we continue to fight against ISIS and those radicalized by them, I rise today to urge my colleagues to join efforts to provide direct assistance to a crucial, critical partner in that fight—the Kurdistan Regional Government. 

Yesterday, I joined Senator Barbara Boxer of California to do just that. We introduced bipartisan legislation to provide temporary authority for the president to provide weapons directly to Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the fight against ISIS.

This legislation builds upon a similar bipartisan House effort led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel. The bill’s three-year authorization seeks to reduce delays in arming Peshmerga forces to fight ISIS, while still maintaining consultation with the Iraqi government.

Beginning in the First Gulf War, the Iraqi Kurds and their Peshmerga forces have played a vital role in supporting U.S. interests and a free Iraq, despite limited means of doing so.  Since August 2014, the Kurds have provided sanctuary to nearly 2 million ethnic and religious minorities in Iraqi Kurdistan, and have been the only force to hold its ground against ISIS in Northern Iraq.

Currently by law, the US must provide support to the Iraqi Kurds through the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, which has often not been timely or adequate in the past.  This has had a negative impact on the Kurds’ ability to defend Iraqi territory and provide security for those Iraqis and Syrians who have sought refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Last November, Secretary of State John Kerry said that if Chairman Royce wanted to change current law—to “fix it”—then he invited him to do so. Well, that’s exactly what this legislation does… It makes it the policy of the United States to provide direct assistance to the Kurdistan Regional Government to combat ISIS. We do that because we believe that defeating ISIS is critical to maintaining an inclusive and unified Iraq and that the Iraqi Kurds are the key in that goal—as well as to helping end the humanitarian crisis in Iraq through their support of over 1.6 million displaced persons from Iraq and Syria.

The legislation preserves the president’s ability to notify the Iraqi government before weapons, equipment, defense services, or related training is provided to Iraqi Kurdish forces. It ensures this emergency authorization does not construct a precedent of providing direct support to organizations other than a country or an international organization. Finally, it works toward accountability by requiring a report to Congress on U.S. weapons provided to the Iraqi government which have ended up in the hands of Iranian controlled/supported Shia militias or foreign terrorists groups.

ISIS is deadly and determined, and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces – our critical partner in the fight against ISIS – need U.S. weapons as quickly as possible. This three-year authorization would bolster efforts against ISIS which is critical to maintaining a unified and stable Iraq, and imperative to our national security interests. We simply cannot afford future delays at this critical moment in the battle. I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this much needed legislation to Arm the Iraqi Kurds in the fight against ISIS. With that Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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