Rohrabacher Urges President Obama to Arm Kurdish Forces
WASHINGTON – Rep. Dana Rohrabacher on Friday sent a strongly-worded letter to the president urging the administration to assist Kurdistan militarily in its defense against Islamist terrorists. The letter was also signed by Rep. Darrell Issa and is expected to pick up more congressional signatures.
Rohrabacher chairs the House Subcommittee of Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats. Issa, also a California Republican, chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
While Rohrabacher supports American backing of Kurds and other opponents of radical Islam, he opposes inserting U.S. combat units into this conflict. He also has made it clear he expects the president to mobilize financial as well as military support from our allies inside and outside the region. The congressman favors air strikes.
“The people of the United States should not carry the lion’s share of the burden in this effort,” said Rohrabacher.
The letter was prompted by reports that the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIS) in recent days has advanced toward the Kurdistan capital and has marched Christian and Yazidi religious minorities into isolation on Mt. Sinjar, where they face death by starvation.
The full letter:
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Dear Mr. President:
We applaud your decision to drop humanitarian aid in Iraq and to use air power to protect Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, and further applaud informal reports on Friday, August 8 that the White House is resolved to move expeditiously to helpequip our Kurdish allies. As Kurdish troops struggle to contain the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIS), our immediate help is essential. Since the June 9, 2014 ISIS invasion of Iraq, ISIS has enveloped over 33% of Iraq in the North and West, and has begun to implement itsvision for an Islamic Caliphate in the heart of Mesopotamia. This area of Iraq has for centuries been home to numerous religions and sects. As a first order of business, ISIS ordered Christians either to convert to Islam, pay an exorbitant Muslim tax, or suffer deadly consequences. Those not conforming have been told there was “nothing for them but the sword.”
Our friends in Kurdistan immediately and forcefully responded to the ISIS invasion. As the Iraqi Army melted away, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces moved quickly to secure Iraqi Army bases that contained US-made weapons and equipment and to protect areas vulnerable to invasion by ISIS. ISIS at first avoided confronting Kurdish forces. However, growing in strength and ambition, ISIS launched a new offensive this week directly targeting Kurdish-protected towns, to include the Mosul Dam area, the Sinjar district and the Rabiyah crossing into Syria. Kurdish forces suffered major losses stemming from this offensive, and hundreds of thousands of residents including the Christian and Yazidi religious minorities have been rendered homeless and are at immediate risk of being slaughtered by ISIS.
This week’s events demonstrate that ISIS has no intention of ceasing its rampage of cities and towns. ISIS gains power by gaining territory. With the addition of territory comes the ability to terrorize new populations, indoctrinate and recruit military age men, raise revenue through taxation and control of oil resources, and extend its intelligence network.
One thing is certain. The stronger ISIS becomes, the harder it will be to defeat. Commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS, has declared his goal as nothing less than to “own the world.”
As Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote, “The Kurdish military remains the ideal ally against ISIS: it is highly motivated, quite well equipped, and perfectly positioned to assault ISIS along a broad front.” Pentagon Spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby recently confirmed that the Pentagon knows precisely what the Kurds need to fight ISIS and yet no formal recommendations havebeen made. The US has provided no meaningful military equipment, weapons, or even desperately-needed ammunition to the Kurds.
The Peshmerga were better equipped as a regional force at the outset of this existential war, but violent battles since the ISIS invasion have dangerously depleted capability and resources. The Peshmerga now face an enemy that has vastly superior advanced US weaponry. ISIS captured hundreds of US Humvees, armored vehicles and artillery pieces. It also reportedly captured tanks and helicopters. Because the Iraqi Army remains incapable of engaging in any successful offensive maneuvers against ISIS, the Kurds as the only force capable of containing them in the immediate short term.
Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero (Ret.) explained to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee two weeks ago that the Peshmerga “are lightly armed, inadequately equipped and insufficiently trained to counter the better-equipped [ISIS] force … The Kurds have proven to be loyal friends and allies to the United States and they have recently asked for material and non-material support from us, and we should expedite this support to them.”
It is essential, now, and with no further delay, that the US respond with concrete deliveries of urgently-needed weapons, ammunition and equipment. Providing these items to one of our most loyal allies is not only vital to our national security interest by helping to contain a deadly foe that intends to do harm to America, it is also a strategic and moral imperative. Every day that passes means more loss of life, mounting humanitarian crises, targeting of vulnerable religious minorities and destruction.
With our Kurdish allies fully engaged in a fight to the death using inferior weapons and dangerously low on ammunition, the time for action, Mr. President, is now. Given the military exigencies, Mr. President, this letter may come to you as we collect additional signatures, and we are most heartened by reports that you are directing immediate supplies for the Kurdish forces facing ISIS.
Dana Rohrabacher Darrell Issa
Member of Congress Member of Congress