As Iraqi Kurdish Deputy PM Qubad Talabani noted, “you cannot win a war bankrupt,” but as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) seeks to fight its open-ended war against ISIS, the question of how to pay for it appears to be less a matter of internal finances, and more something for the lobbyists to worry about.
When oil prices were higher, the KRG was awash in money, but like all the other exporters in the region is facing something of a cash crunch. Still, they’re making sure to find money to pay a high-profile US lobbying firm tens of thousands of dollars monthly to try to coax more aid out of the US Congress.
It’s a strategy that other nations have perfected in the past, and the Kurds are just the latest to line up at the US capital looking for handouts. And since it’s about war, Congress is only too willing to oblige, committing $415 million to aid the Peshmerga, a good return on investment for their pricey lobbying efforts.
This effort is likely to get a lot bigger going forward, with the KRG seeking support from dominant Israel lobbying group AIPAC, hoping to get in the multi-billion dollar aid range Israel gets from the US as a matter of course.
The legal case for subsidizing the Kurds is shaky, at best, as traditionally military aid needs to go to national governments, or at least be endorsed by those governments. The KRG, however, is only a regional government within Iraq, and the Baghdad government isn’t necessarily keen on the US building their paramilitary into a huge army in its own right.
As with other restrictions, like the ban on US aid to military juntas or to nations with major human rights problems, the US is largely just ignoring the law, however, and the lobbying effort is likely to continue to secure large US checks of dubious legality for years to come.