The US lower chamber approves the bill to provide the Iraqi Kurdistan Region with air defense systems among other arms to counter "Iranian threats".

  • US looks to arm Kurdistan with anti-air systems eyeing Iran
    A flag of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region flies next to Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stationed on a tank (AFP)

The United States House of Representatives presented a bipartisan bill to provide Kurdish Peshmerga, the security arm in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, with air defense systems as the US pushes to create heated zones near the Iranian borders.

The law sponsor Congressman Don Bacon told the Middle East Eye that the legislation had “strong bipartisan support” and that it “would direct the US administration to prepare and implement a plan of action to train and equip Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces to defend against attacks by Iranian missiles, rockets, and unmanned systems.”

Bacon's amendment proposal still needs US Senate approval and if passed would be included in Pentagon’s annual and under the National Defense Authorization (NDAA).

Read more: US interested in independent Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq has failed: Bolton

US Department of Defense currently gives out a monthly payment of $20 million to the Kurdish Peshmarga, the head of the Middle East security program at the Center for a New American Security told the news site.

Turkey is also considered a threat to the Kurdistan region in the House bill that the US aims to counter.

While Ankara maintained stable relations with the Peshmarga, it labels the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) a terrorist group and continuously targets them and their affiliates in Iraq and Syria.

The Peshmarga have also often clashed with the PKK, bringing Turkey and Kurdistan's security forces to an interesting intersection.

Read more: Iran tells UN it had no choice but to defend itself against terrorists

However, the Peshmarga are linked with Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), an Iranian Kurdish separatist group that is considered a terrorist group by Tehran and is based in northern Iraq near the Islamic Republic's borders.

Kurdish militant groups have been a destabilizing force in Iran ad Iraq for years, top of which is the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), a militia that operates in northern Iraq.

KDPI was supported by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during his war on Iran and played a dangerous role in inciting Kurdish groups in the country to clash against the Iranian government after the victory of the Islamic Republic.

In recent years, the Iranian military forces carried out a series of operations against KDPI positions in northern Iraq on Iran's borders. Also, PAK was subjected to targeting by the Islamic Republic.

Read more: US prohibiting Kurdish groups from negotiating with Syria: Bogdanov

Iraqi authorities in Sulaymaniyah, east of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, were able to thwart an operation to smuggle arms into Iran in December 2022, which was planned and executed by Kurdish militants.

The weapons were destined for Western-backed groups inside Iran that were working on destabilizing security during the foreign-incited riots in the Islamic Republic last year.

Former US national security chief, John Bolton, openly admitted in November 2022 that the "opposition" in Iran is armed and that their weapons are being smuggled from the Iraqi Kurdistan region. 

Bolton made the remarks during an interview with the London-based BBC Persian TV channel. “The Iranian opposition is now being armed, with weapons seized from the Basij, or weapons entering Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan. This reveals the perspective that the systematic effort of the opposition not only to protest but to use coercive force against the government, with the message that we are no longer unarmed, and can fight against the IRGC. This shows that the position of the Islamic Republic is more vulnerable than ever,” he said then.

Earlier this year, Tehran and Baghdad signed a border security agreement, that included a commitment from Iraq to enforce security on its borders with Iran, including countering activities of Kurdish militias.

Iran and Iraq signed a border security agreement in March, with Baghdad vowing to reign in the activity of Kurdish militants on the Iranian border.

However, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry said in May that it will continue carrying out operations against separatists in northern Iraq if Baghdad fails to stop the militias, adding that the Islamic Republic is “waiting for the government of Iraq to honor its commitments.”

Read more: Iraqi forces to be redeployed on borders with Iran, Turkey: Baghdad

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