Congress Threatens to Withhold Arms from Baghdad

Baghdad has denied that the PMU possess any US-supplied M1 Abrams tanks and insisted that federal Iraqi forces retain control over the tanks. The Iraqi Embassy in Washington did not comment on the Humvees but asserted that “there is a concerted misinformation campaign by elements in the Kurdish region to cover up their sinister actions in attempting to disrupt the coordinated and professional movements of the Iraqi security forces.”

In a fact sheet distributed to reporters, the embassy maintained that Baghdad “carefully planned and coordinated the return of federal forces to Kirkuk province with local security forces,” and blamed “regional party militias from outside the Kirkuk province” for attacking federal security forces.

The debate over who’s to blame for the flare-up in violence — and whether US weapons and equipment were improperly used — could have important ramifications for Washington’s ability to continue to provide more than $1 billion in annual arms sales.

Current law requires the secretary of defense to certify that “the government of Iraq has taken such actions as may be reasonably necessary to safeguard against [US military] assistance being transferred to or acquired by violent extremist organizations,” including those with links to Iran. Although the United States vets the PMU militias it arms, the State Department has designated some militias within the PMU as foreign terrorist organizations.

House lawmakers tried to go further in last year’s annual defense bill by providing the peshmerga and Sunni tribal forces with $50 million unless Baghdad ended support for PMU militias controlled by or associated with Iran. The language, however, did not survive reconciliation with the Senate version of the bill at the time.


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