A Turkish official adamantly refused the allegation that Turkey lobbied against a draft law in the U.S. Congress to provide direct U.S. military aid to northern Iraqi's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
The allegation, first reported by The Intercept last month, claimed Dickstein Shapiro, a lobby firm funded by Turkey led by David Thompson, fought against legislation in November sponsored by House Representatives Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a ranking member Elliot Engel. The law was to provide the necessary legal authority for U.S. President Barack Obama's administration to directly arm the KRG, bypassing the Iraqi government in Baghdad.
The lobbying files show that Dickstein Shapiro indeed met with the national security aide to House Majority Leader Kevin MacCharty and contacted the staff for Majority Whip Steve Scalise to discuss the issue. However, filings do not explain the content of the meetings nor Turkey's intentions.
A senior Turkish diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the reports on Turkish lobbying against the KRG were misleading. He said: "Providing arms to the KRG through U.S. authorities is a bilateral American-KRG issue. We have nothing to do with that. We didn't work against the KRG or support the bill. The meetings have included general discussions on the law, nothing more than that. Why would we work against the KRG? Turkey has trained hundreds of [KRG] peshmerga forces against ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham] just this year." The KRG mission based in Washington did not return phone calls or emails regarding the subject.
Last November, Ankara agreed to lead a training program for peshmerga forces by its elite military units known as the "maroon berets." Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu confirmed to the Turkish press on the record and said Turkey would support the KRG by any means. The Foreign Ministry has said over 230 KRG soldiers completed the training program.
Turkey also has directly supplied ammunition and military equipment to the KRG. Commenting on the peshmerga mission in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani to the Rudaw news portal last May, a peshmerga commander, Muslih Zebari, said Turkey supplied ammunition and supported them during their fight against ISIS. "In Kobani, Turkey provided our daily food and, apart from that, they also provided four trucks of ammunition, which cost $630,000," Zebari said. ISIS besieged Kobani last September and in order to help the Kurdish ground forces defend the city, the Turkish government allowed 150 peshmerga fighters from the KRG to cross from Turkey to join the fight against ISIS in Kobani in October last year.
KRG Peshmerga Ministry Secretary General Jabbar Yaver said in June that Turkey also granted military equipment and vehicles to Kurdish forces.
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