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House Committee Votes to Directly Arm Kurds in Northern Iraq

The Republican-led House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would allow direct delivery of arms and other supplies to Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting Islamic State in northern Iraq.

Backers say the bill is a response to the Baghdad government routinely delaying the delivery of arms to the Kurds.

"This legislation cuts throuconggh the bureaucratic tape to get arms, training and medicine directly to Kurdish forces," Rep. Ed Royce, a Republican from California and chairman of the committee, said afterward. Royce drafted the bill -- his second attempt to ease the flow of weapons to the Peshmerga -- with bipartisan support.

The measure will now move to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

The White House and Pentagon did not back the legislation. They say it is unnecessary because weapons are already being directly sent to the Kurds, not only from the U.S. but from coalition countries.

Royce and other lawmakers do not agree, a committee source pointing to a recent comment by Masrour Barzani, the Kurdish intelligence chief, to The Wall Street Journal, that the Kurds "haven't received the kind of equipment we want or the amount we need."

Barzani told the paper, "Ammunition shortages are sometimes acute, and many of the Iraqi Kurds' heavier weapons are antiques wrested years ago from Saddam Hussein's regime."

The Peshmerga have been the most aggressive and committed Iraqi fighters opposing the Islamic State since the group spread from Syria into Iraq in 2014. The largely Sunni Iraq army in the region in many cases fled without a fight when attacked by ISIS, alternately called ISIL or Daesh.

The committee also approved the Combat Terrorist Use of Social Media Act of 2015, which requires the president to report to Congress on U.S. strategy for combating terrorists' use of social media.

ISIS has become adept at getting out its messages and even recruiting via social media. The group relies on popular social networking sites, as well as the so-called "dark web" for online communication.

"Extremist groups are using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube across borders to recruit, radicalize and encourage attacks on our free society," Royce said.

That bill was introduced in September, though Royce said that with the Dec. 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 dead, "the Obama administration needs to get serious about targeting terrorists' use of social media."

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryantjordan.

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