United States Congress. AP file photo.
BAGHDAD — Congress may reconsider a provision in an upcoming bill funding the training of the Iraqi army that would send weapons separately to Arab Sunnis and Kurds, a congressman visiting Baghdad said Sunday.
Rep. Michael T. McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security visiting Baghdad with seven other members, said he realized the priority in the country was the defense of Baghdad and the provision could threaten Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's position.
"If Baghdad falls, so does the entire country, so this is why we have to go back to that provision to see if we can change that," McCaul told The Associated Press ahead of his meeting with the prime minister.
On Wednesday, influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militia was once a major force, threatened to attack US interests if the provision, which would divert 25 percent of the $715 million defense bill to train the Iraqi army, passed.
Al-Sadr's statement precipitated a cascade of condemnations by members of the Shiite-dominated government and its allied militias.
Al-Abadi said he brought up the issue with Vice President Joe Biden in a phone conversation, warning that such a provision would undermine the country's sovereignty, according to the prime minister's website Sunday.
The provision stems from concerns that the Iraqi government is keeping weapons from the Kurdish peshmerga forces, which are bearing the brunt of the fight against the Islamic State in the north.
The US would also like to see Sunni tribesmen armed and brought into the fight but the Shiite-dominated government doesn't trust them.
The United States has already spent billions arming and training the Iraqi military, but it performed poorly last year when Islamic State militants swept across western and northern Iraq, routing four divisions.
For the US to bypass the central government in distributing weapons, however, was seen by critics as a threat to the country's national unity.
President Barack Obama has also expressed his opposition to the move.