This week former Congressman Frank Wolf, Distinguished Senior Fellow at 21CWI, testified before House and the Senate about the dire situation in Iraq and the very real opportunity we have to stop ISIS genocide from being complete. He reported on his recent trip to Iraq where he visited Mosul, Mt. Sinjar, and Sinjar City among other locations. Congressman Wolf’s testimony concluded with four recommendations:
- Our government needs “fresh eyes” in Iraq with regard to our current policies to provide humanitarian aid as well as protect our national security interests.
- President Trump should issue a Presidential Decision Directive or Presidential Memorandum directing the State Department and USAID to immediately address the needs to communities identified by Secretary Tillerson as having been targeted for genocide.
- A post should be established by the White House for an inter-agency coordinator to guarantee that the needs of these communities are adequately addressed to ensure their safety and preservation consistent with U.S. foreign policy.
- Congress should immediately pass H.R. 390, the bipartisan Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act, authored by Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and coauthored by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA).
Iraq’s Christian population has dwindled from 1.5 million in 2003 to just 250,000 today. Families leave every day searching for security, economic opportunity and education. Terror has displaced these minority families from their homes for three years, and many believe they can stay only if the U.S. and its international partners ensure their ability to rebuild securely.
Christians are not the only victims. The Yezidi community shared many of the same concerns. Today, 3,000 of their women and girls remain in ISIS captivity. Moreover, their land is “contested territory” by Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government. Multiple militias control it and few families have been able to return, though many want to return.
Some of Iraq’s militias have very concerning geo-political missions. The Hashd-al Shaabi militia is backed by Iran, which is trying to create a land-bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. This would allow military aid from Iran to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. Thus, we see how these minorities returning safely to their homes has direct national security impact on the U.S. and its allies in Europe, as well as Israel.
Unfortunately, to a large extent, U.S. Government assistance has been limited. While ISIS targeted other groups for genocide, those groups have regional backers; Christians and Yezidis don’t have supporters in the region, and so are at greater risk now.
The U.S. must help Christians and Yezidis to return home safely. As a UN official said recently, “the religious minorities need unique solutions.” What works to return Sunni Muslims to Mosul will not work to return religious minorities to contested territories. The State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) must structure assistance in a way that is responsive to these genocide victims’ unique circumstances.
Congressional resolve and the force of law must be matched by Administration action. There is still time, but the hour is late and the communities have little stamina left. We cannot allow ISIS’ genocide to succeed