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Iraqi Turkmens Concerned Over US Proposal to Arm Sunnis, Kurds

The Iraqi Turkmen Front has expressed concern over U.S. House committee discussions on a bill which aims to arm Kurds and Sunni tribes in Iraq, a leading Iraqi Turkmen figure said.

The Iraqi Turkmen Front has expressed concern over U.S. House committee discussions on a bill which aims to arm Kurds and Sunni tribes in Iraq, a leading Iraqi Turkmen figure said.


The U.S. House committee discussed on April 29 proposed legislation that would grant President Barack Obama’s request for $715 million for security assistance to Iraqi forces fighting the ISIL.

“We are concerned about the U.S. decision (sic),” Ershad Salihi, the leader of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, told The Anadolu Agency on Monday.

“In a scenario where Kurds and Sunnis are backed by the U.S., while Iraqi Shiites are backed by Iran, Turkmens would remain unarmed and we are concerned about these possible situations,” he added.

The bill drew controversy in Iraq and in the U.S. as it required peshmerga, Sunni forces and the Iraqi Sunni National Guard to be deemed "a country," allowing those forces to directly receive aid U.S. aid, in the event the Iraqi government failed to reconcile with the all segments of Iraqi society.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the bill did not reflect the administration's policy in Iraq.

"The policy of this administration is clear and consistent in support of a unified Iraq, and that we've always said a unified Iraq is stronger, and it's important to the stability of the region as well," said Marie Harf. "All arms transfers must be coordinated via the sovereign central government of Iraq."

In December 2014, in response to a Turkmen demand regarding the possibility to form a military force, a member of the Iraqi Parliament Security and Defense Committee, Shakhwan Abdullah, had told London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that there were constitutional obstacles. 

“The Iraqi constitution stipulates that there are only two forces in Iraq: the Iraqi army forces and the regional guard forces (Peshmerga)," he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Armed Service Committee and entire House will vote on the bill while the Senate Armed Service Committee will submit its own version of the bill.

Salihi also criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi's policy with regards to Turkmens. 

“Ibadi's policy concerning Turkmen is unsatisfying. Ibadi is ignoring us. Our right to representation and political gains had been greater during past governments,” he said.

Ershad Salihi took the opportunity to mention the support provided by Turkey.

“Turkey has been taking seriously (our) security situation in Iraq and it has been assisting Turkmens,” he said.

Turkmen form Iraq’s third largest ethnic group and mostly live in the northern provinces. Alongside other minority groups they have been specifically targeted by the ISIL. In February, 450 were reported to have been kidnapped by the group, including women and children.

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