WASHINGTON – The Trump administration should “embrace” the opportunity to prevent American taxpayer funds appropriated to help ethnoreligious minorities in Iraq from being channeled to United Nations projects that suffer from “significant corruption,” argues a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
While the U.N. has handled U.S. aid funds in the past, the money devoted to helping the Iraqi minorities “requires swifter, more effective, more accountable action” that the international body is unable to produce, wrote the House members in a letter to the Trump administration obtained by Breitbart News.
“We have also received credible reports of significant corruption in the UN bidding and contracting process for stabilization projects in Iraq,” declared Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Robert Aderholt (R-AL).
The lawmakers explicitly addressed the letter to Mark Green, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator, but a copy was reportedly also sent to President Trump and State Secretary Rex Tillerson.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, the lawmakers noted that by seizing the opportunity to spend the funds, the Trump administration would be able to help the president keep his commitment to lend support to Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq.
The members of Congress urged Trump’s USAID and the State Department to directly “spend authorized and appropriated funds to prevent these endangered communities from being erased,” instead of siphoning off the funds into the coffers of the U.N.
On top of other congressional actions to help the Iraqi minority groups, the 2017 Omnibus Appropriations Act requires that a portion of the $1.4 billion appropriated for the International Disaster Assistance and Migration and Refugee Assistance accounts be devoted to religious minority victims of genocide.
Lawmakers called on USAID to devote the taxpayer funds to reconstruction efforts in northern Iraq’s Nineveh Plain region, the historical homeland of Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnoreligious minorities who have been victims of genocide at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
“We strongly urge your agency to embrace the significant opportunity to restore hope for peoples who face extinction, and we stand ready to assist in any way we can,” said the members of Congress, addressing the USAID chief.
The House members added:
USAID has an immediate opportunity to partner with entities committed to the appropriate reconstruction of damaged homes and public buildings, in several key town in the Nineveh Plain of Iraq.
Although two Administrations and the United States Congress determined that ISIS targeted Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities for genocide, a lack of concerted response following the fall of ISIS has resulted in dire conditions where these peoples desperately need assistance if they are to survive.
In August, Secretary Tillerson recognized that ISIS is “clearly responsible for genocide” against minority groups in Iraq and Syria, adding that “the protection of these groups — and others who are targets of violent extremism — remains a human-rights priority for the Trump administration.”
“President Trump and Vice President [Mike] Pence have strongly, publicly committed the Administration to providing relief to Christians, Yazidis, and other genocide survivors, and ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice,” GOP Rep. Smith also said in June.
In the letter, the lawmakers also argued that returning minority groups to the Nineveh Plain, which borders northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, could serve as a buffer against the ongoing independence vote-linked dispute between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that poses additional strains on stability in Iraq.
“Repatriation has a strategic advantage of heading off potential conflict between the KRG and Baghdad while barring an Iranian land bridge to the Mediterranean, which presently threatens to fill the vacuum in the Nineveh Plain created by the removal of ISIS,” they wrote. “This land bridge will be occupied by forces loyal to Tehran if security and rebuilding fails [sic] to come from other quarters.”
Baghdad, Iran, and Turkey have threatened a coordinated military response if the KRG refuses to cancel the outcome of the September 25 independence referendum, which Kurds overwhelmingly approved.
Backed by Iran-allied Shiite militias, the Iraqi military has pushed the KRG out of the disputed territory in northern Iraq, including the oil-rich Kirkuk region claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The KRG claims that Iran is directly assisting Baghdad in retaking the disputed areas, but Tehran denies the allegation.