Congressional criticism of US neutrality between Iraq and Kurds grows
As Iraqi attacks on the Kurdistan Region continue, more Congressmen have joined in criticizing the Donald Trump administration’s neutrality between Baghdad and Erbil.
The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes (R, California), was so concerned, he told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday, “I think we need to intervene” militarily.
“I would want to go in there and do something because we don’t want to see a massacre,” he added.
Rep. Eiliot Engel (D, New York), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “We should make sure there is no massacre, and I think that if the last resort would be to send troops or safeguards, I think we should consider it.”
Amnesty International has reported that tens of thousands of civilians were forced to flee the multi-ethnic town of Tuz Khurmatu “amid indiscriminate attacks, looting, and arson,” as Iraqi government forces and Shia militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), attacked on Oct. 16.
Ron De Santis (R, Florida), another member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement on Thursday morning, citing reports that Iraqi forces and the PMF, supported by Iran, had deployed heavy weapons in preparation for a major attack on the Peshmerga.
“The Kurds have been a strong ally of ours, while Iranian-backed militias killed hundreds of American troops in Iraq,” De Santis’ statement read.
“The US should stand by the Kurds. It would be tragic if we allowed the Kurds to be steamrolled by forces who have American blood on their hands,” the statement continued.
On Wednesday afternoon, before the latest Iraqi offensive, four senior Congressmen—House Speaker Paul Ryan (R, Wisconsin), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R, California), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry (R, Texas), and Rep. Nunes—issued a joint statement, in which they welcomed the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) call earlier that day for a ceasefire, as the KRG announced it was “freezing” the results of the referendum, while proposing negotiations.
“The bloodshed must stop immediately,” the Congressmen affirmed.
“Baghdad should accept [the KRG] offer and enter into meaningful discussions that address long-term Kurdish concerns about autonomy, [a] share of the national budget, and oil revenues.”
“We are very concerned about Iranian involvement in recent operations,” their statement continued.
“These forces have been responsible for horrible abuses, including the deaths of Americans. They have no place in a peaceful, united, and stable Iraq.”
On Thursday, Kurdistan 24 asked State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert about pictures and reports circulating on social media that Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, head of Kata’ib Hezbollah, a prominent Iranian-backed PMF unit which participated in the assault on Kirkuk, had opened a recruiting office there.
Al-Muhandis was convicted in absentia for his role in the 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Kuwait. In 2009, the US Treasury Department designated Muhandis a terrorist for his role in killing US and Iraqi forces, noting that he was an advisor to Qassem Soleimani.
Nauert confirmed, “He is a terrorist,” but was unwilling to suggest any consequences should follow.