Charles Krauthammer asked that question eleven months ago on Fox News and the question remains relevant today. The Obama administration not only refuses to directly arm the most successful anti-ISIS fighting force, they reportedly block attempts by our allies in the Middle East to arm them.
Via the UK Telegraph:
The United States has blocked attempts by its Middle East allies to fly heavy weapons directly to the Kurds fighting Islamic State jihadists in Iraq, The Telegraph has learnt.
Some of America’s closest allies say President Barack Obama and other Western leaders, including David Cameron, are failing to show strategic leadership over the world’s gravest security crisis for decades.
They now say they are willing to “go it alone” in supplying heavy weapons to the Kurds, even if means defying the Iraqi authorities and their American backers, who demand all weapons be channelled through Baghdad.
High level officials from Gulf and other states have told this newspaper that all attempts to persuade Mr Obama of the need to arm the Kurds directly as part of more vigorous plans to take on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) have failed.
The US has also infuriated its allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states, by what they perceive to be a lack of clear purpose and vacillation in how they conduct the bombing campaign. Other members of the coalition say they have identified clear Isil targets but then been blocked by US veto from firing at them.
“There is simply no strategic approach,” one senior Gulf official said. “There is a lack of coordination in selecting targets, and there is no overall plan for defeating Isil.”
The United States Senate voted down an attempt to directly arm the Kurds last month.
The amendment to the annual defense policy bill from Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican and a combat veteran of Iraq, failed on a 54-45 vote. It would have allowed the U.S. to provide equipment ranging from anti-tank weaponry to body armor and communications equipment to the Kurdish peshmerga, one of the more capable fighting forces currently taking on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
“I remain committed to supporting the Iraqi Kurds who are the key partners in defeating ISIS,” Mrs. Ernst said in a statement. “The United States simply cannot afford any delays in arming our Kurdish partner on the ground at such a critical moment.”
The amendment from Mrs. Ernst didn’t break along party lines. Seven Democrats voted for the measure, while seven Republicans, including chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, voted against it.
Republican presidential candidates Senators Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul voted for the amendment to arm the Kurds.
Paul, a strong supporter of Kurdish independence, put out this statement following his vote:
“The Iraqi Kurdish forces are skilled fighters that are ready and willing to defeat ISIS, but often do not have the weapons to do so. As one of our closest allies in the Middle East, I fully support sending arms to the Kurdish fighters. This amendment would help ensure the Kurds have the support they need in order to defeat radical Islam,” Sen. Paul said.
Another 2016 candidate, Democrat Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, (V-I), voted against arming the Kurds.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who is also running for president, was a no-show for the vote.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter urged senators to turn away from the proposal in a letter prior to the vote.
He reasoned, “that arming the Kurds would trigger the revenge of the Shi’ite militias to unleash attacks on the US personnel and interests in Iraq”. Secretary of State John Kerry also wrote a letter, urging the same action of Senators. He argued that, “Iraq’s fragile territorial and political unity would be in jeopardy if the amendment passed”.
But as it stands today, Iraq could not be further away from being united and calls for an ethno- religious partition are on the increase. The U.S.-trained Iraqi forces are known for either throwing down their weapons and fleeing, or engaging in war crimes as ghastly as the Islamic State’s. The Kurds, meanwhile, have managed to recapture previously IS-held territories using outdated weaponry.
On paper, at least, it’s one of America’s greatest allies. ISIS, meanwhile, is the world’s most deranged army of psychopaths. Even Al Qaeda disowns it. The Kurds, though, are America’s most reliable allies in the Middle East alongside the Israelis.
It’s not an accident or a coincidence that ISIS can replenish its ranks over the Turkish border while the Kurds can’t. If Erdogan can stop Kurds from the crossing that border, he can stop ISIS from crossing that border. Refusing to do so is a choice.
It’s bad enough that the United States refuses to support the most effective fighting force against ISIS. It’s a downright travesty that Obama is blocking other nations from doing so.
Arab officials have no choice but to find ways to fight to the Islamic State without U.S. approval.
“If the Americans and the West are not prepared to do anything serious about defeating Isil, then we will have to find new ways of dealing with the threat,” said a senior Arab government official. “With Isil making ground all the time we simply cannot afford to wait for Washington to wake up to the enormity of the threat we face.”