By Amberin Zaman for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
When the Iraqi Kurds come to Washington, it is often to ask for guns to fight the Islamic State (IS). Now they are pleading for cash, warning that their campaign against the jihadis is threatened by an economic “tsunami” that has left their quasi-independent state teetering on the brink of collapse.
“Is this only our fight or yours, too?” asked Fuad Hussein, chief of staff of Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani, after briefing top US officials in Washington last week.
The Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga warriors and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units are critical allies in the fight against IS, wresting back huge chunks of territories including the town of Sinjar in Iraq and the Tishreen dam in Syria. But Hussein cautioned that IS remains “a big threat” and could “regroup at any time.” Unless the Kurds’ allies step in with financial aid, the Kurds’ capacity to fend off the jihadists will wane, he said. “You cannot win the fight when you can’t survive economically,” Hussein told Al-Monitor in an interview.
That message was driven home in back-to-back meetings at the State Department, the White House, the National Security Council and also on Capitol Hill, where the Kurds met with Sens. John McCain and Dianne Feinstein, among others. “We haven’t been going around asking people to pull out their checkbooks,” said Bayan Sami Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) representative in Washington.
“But people don’t appreciate enough that this is an incessant fight,” she said in an interview with Al-Monitor. “Never mind the cost of running a war, our peshmerga don’t even have winter gear. The purpose of our mission here is to help our friends understand that this is not sustainable, that we need nothing less than a Marshall plan,” Rahman added.