The latest proposal is included in a November 10 request to Congress for USD 1.6 billion to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces to fight IS as part of a USD 5.6 billion request to expand US mission in Iraq. The proposal sets up a fight with key Senate Democrats, who blocked two earlier requests for such an exemption, according to documents and interviews.
The 1997 Leahy Law, named after Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, bars US from funding military units suspected of "gross human rights violations," which include murder, torture and extrajudicial imprisonment.
Top military officers have long complained that the law slows their work with local forces, while human rights activists call it an important safeguard against US complicity in abuses by unsavory allies.
The Obama administration's written proposal includes a blanket exemption from the Leahy provisions and related constraints as it trains and equips Iraqi and Kurdish forces to fight IS.
A spokesman for the National Security Council, Alistair Baskey, said the waiver was designed to cut through procurement red tape but "is not intended to alter our practices with respect to human rights-related laws, including the Leahy law." However, the language allows the defense secretary to waive "any" provision that would "prohibit, restrict, limit or otherwise constrain" the war spending. Senate aides say there is no doubt it would waive the human rights requirements.
Iraqi government forces the main intended recipients of the new aid were notorious for human rights abuses under the previous prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. In July, a United Nations human rights report documented allegations of atrocities by the government, including shelling civilians and
executing Sunni detainees.
The Associated Press reported this week that Shiite militias backed by Baghdad are engaging in brutal acts as they battle IS, a Sunni Muslim group, and there are allegations of mass killings of Sunnis.
Leahy and other Democrats will oppose a blanket waiver, said aides who declined to be quoted by name.