Rep. Adam Kinzinger defended the U.S. shipment of $17 million worth of weapons to Iraq's army ahead of the expected spring assault on the city of Mosul, saying that while the situation isn't ideal, it is important to keep Iran out of the picture.
The Illinois Republican told CNN on Tuesday that the weaponry admittedly could be lost as happened when the Islamic State (ISIS) first took Mosul in 2014, but that it was needed to keep the Iraqi army a close ally.
Republicans criticized a report last week outlining a plan to re-take Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, in April or May, saying the American military had given away the element of surprise.
CNN reported Tuesday that 10,000 M-16 rifles along with 10,000 optical scopes have been shipped to Iraq as part of the effort to take Mosul from ISIS. Also, 200 more MRAP mine resistant vehicles are being sent, CNN reported.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer questioned Kinzinger on whether the initial $17 million investment should be paid by the Iraqis rather than American taxpayers, especially since Iraqi troops laid down American-supplied weapons and fled when ISIS took over the city last year.
Those American weapons are now in the hands of ISIS.
Kinzinger, appearing on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,"
said he would like to see the Iraqis foot the bill, but added, "we're probably competing with the Iranians."
Iran would be happy to give weapons to Iraq for free, but they would come with strings attached, he said.
"It's in our interest to make sure the Iraqis don't side with the Iranians in this fight," he told Blitzer.
He added that although Iraq is an oil-rich country, the downturn in crude prices have put a significant dent in their budget.
Kinzinger said the alternatives to provided the weapons to Iraq aren't good.
"We have a choice: Use the Iraqi military, totally disengage in the Middle East, or use 100,000 American troops. I don't think the American people are ready for that," he said.
Idaho Sen. Jim Risch was less inclined to favor the deal, noting that the Iraqis haven't paid back the billions already spent to defend them.
Risch told Blitzer the White House should "definitely" seek payment for the weapons.
"We're spending our kids' and grandkids' money there, and that should be done, but the administration is convinced that they need this so badly … that they are willing to take some risk there," Risch said. "I have major reservations."
He suggested using the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters instead.
"They know how to do this. They haven't lost any U.S. weapons," Risch said.
Risch did admit, however, that the Iraq is in a difficult situation and could understand their reasoning for taking help from Iran if needed.
"When you're in the position as the fledgling Iraqi army is … they will take it from whoever is willing to help," he said.
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