Michael Obel reports: A Canadian sniper set what appears to be a record, picking off an ISIS fighter from some 2.2 miles away, and disrupting a potentially deadly operation by the terror group in Iraq.
Shooting experts say the fatal shot at a world-record distance of 11,316 feet underscores how stunningly sophisticated military snipers are becoming. The feat, pulled off by a special forces sniper from Canada’s Joint Task Force 2, smashed the previous distance record for successful sniper shots by some 3,280 feet, a record set by a British sniper.
“ … the true challenge here was being able to calculate the actual wind speed and direction all the way to the target.”
“The Canadian Special Operations Command can confirm that a member of the Joint Task Force 2 successfully hit a target from 3,540 metres [2.2 miles],” the Canadian military said in a statement.
While officials would not say where the shot took place, the statement noted the command “provides its expertise to Iraqi security force to detect, identify and defeat Daesh activities from well behind the Iraqi security force front line in Mosul.”
The new record was set using a McMillan TAC-50, a .50-caliber weapon and the largest shoulder-fired firearm in existence.
Ryan Cleckner, a former U.S. Army Ranger sniper who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and wrote the authoritative “Long Range Shooting Handbook,” called the feat an “incredible” accomplishment, one that owes as much if not more to the spotter’s expertise than the shooter’s skill.
“The spotter would have had to successfully calculate five factors: distance, wind, atmospheric conditions and the speed of the earth’s rotation at their latitude,” Cleckner told Fox News.
“Because wind speed and direction would vary over the two miles the bullet traveled, the true challenge here was being able to calculate the actual wind speed and direction all the way to the target.”
Atmospheric conditions also would have posed a huge challenge for the spotter.
“To get the atmospheric conditions just right, the spotter would have had to understand the temperature, humidity and barometric pressure of the air the round had to travel through. Read the rest of this entry »
Hussein said his emirs, or local Islamic State commanders, gave him and others a green light to rape as many Yazidi and other women as they wanted.
Michael Georgy reports: Islamic State militant Amar Hussein says he reads the Koran all day in his tiny jail cell to become a better person. He also says he raped more than 200 women from Iraqi minorities, and shows few regrets.
“Young men need this. This is normal.”
Kurdish intelligence authorities gave Reuters rare access to Hussein and another Islamic State militant who were both captured during an assault on the city of Kirkuk in October that killed 99 civilians and members of the security forces. Sixty-three Islamic State militants died.
Hussein said his emirs, or local Islamic State commanders, gave him and others a green light to rape as many Yazidi and other women as they wanted.
“Young men need this,” Hussein told Reuters in an interview after a Kurdish counter-terrorism agent removed a black hood from his head. “This is normal.”
Hussein said he moved from house to house in several Iraqi cities raping women from the Yazidi sect and other minorities at a time when Islamic State was grabbing more and more territory from Iraqi security forces.
Kurdish security officials say they have evidence of Hussein raping and killing but they don’t know what the scale is.
Reuters could not independently verify Hussein’s account.
Witnesses and Iraqi officials say Islamic State fighters raped many Yazidi women after the group rampaged through northern Iraq in 2014. It also abducted many Yazidi women as sex slaves and killed some of their male relatives, they said.
Appearing on “Special Report,” Krauthammer — along with Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist and Fox News’ Digital Editor Chris Stirewalt — took part in a panel discussion on Trump’s remarks to CIA officials and employees Saturday afternoon as one of his first stops as president following his inauguration Friday.
Hemingway asserted that Trump was successful in sending the message that he supports the “rank and file in the intelligence agencies.” Krauthammer expressed concern that Trump’s off-handed remark about keeping oil after the 2003 invasion were troubling because the president has enormous power to affect world events with just his words.
From Foreign Policy:
At one point, Trump regurgitated parts of his stump speech about how the United States “should have kept the oil” after invading Iraq. “Maybe we’ll have another chance,” he added. Aside from being physically impossible to sequester billions of barrels of underground oil, that would constitute a breach of international law. U.S. troops are currently embedded with forces of the country that Trump suggested again invading. Read the rest of this entry »
Thousands of Assyrian Christians fled their homes in northern Iraq when ISIS militants took control in August 2014.
Reuters reports: Several hundred Iraqi Christians flocked on Saturday to a northern town recently retaken from the Islamic State group, celebrating Christmas for the first time since 2013, their joy tainted with sadness over the desecration of their church.
“This is a dark cloud over Iraq. But we will stay here in our land no matter what happens. God is with us.”
— Bishop Shemani, Christmas Eve sermon in Bartella.
Once home to thousands of Assyrian Christians, Bartella emptied in August 2014 when it fell to ISIS’ blitz across large parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria. Iraqi forces took it back in the first few days of the U.S.-backed offensive that started in October.
Women holding candles ululated as they went into the town’s Mar Shimoni church, expressing their joy at returning to the place where many of them said they had been baptized.
“This is the best day of my life. Sometimes I thought it would never come,” said Shurook Tawfiq, a 32-year-old housewife displaced to the nearby Kurdish city of Erbil.
The church was badly damaged during ISIS’ time in control of the town, with crosses taken down, statues of saints defaced and the chancel burnt.
A new cross has been affixed on top of the chapel, while a decorated plastic Christmas tree now stands near the massive gate. Soldiers stood guard nearby and others were posted on rooftops.
A peal of festive bells rang out over the town, which is still largely empty, with many houses reduced to rubble by the fighting that raged two months ago.
“It is a mix of sadness and happiness,” Bishop Mussa Shemani told Reuters before celebrating the Christmas Eve Mass.
“We are sad to see what has been done to our holiest places by our own countrymen, but at the same time we are happy to celebrate the first Mass after two years.”
The region of Nineveh is one of the most ancient settlements of Christianity, going back nearly 2,000 years.
At Mar Shimoni, the congregation sang and prayed in Syriac, a language close to the one spoken by Jesus.
“It’s the church where I was baptized, where I was educated, where I was taught the faith,” said Bahnam Shamanny, the editor of Bartelli al-Syriann, a monthly local newspaper. Read the rest of this entry »
Suspects planned ‘synchronized’ attacks in Kosovo and Albania, police say; weapons, ammunition and a drone seized in sweep
PRISTINA, Kosovo — Times of Israel staff reports:Kosovo police on Wednesday said they had arrested 19 people they suspected of being involved in an Islamic State plot to carry out terror attacks in Kosovo and neighboring Albania, including an assault during a football match between Albania and Israel this past weekend.
Police said the arrests were made over the past 10 days and that the suspects had planned “synchronized terror attacks,” without going into further detail.
“They were planning to commit terrorist attacks in Kosovo and also [an attack] against [the] Israeli football team and their fans during the Albania-Israel match,” Kosovo police said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that weapons, explosives, ammunition and a drone were seized during the sweep.
Federal prosecutors say Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion.
An indictment in Detroit accuses Muthanna Al-Hanooti of arranging for three members of Congress to travel to Iraq in October 2002 at the behest of Saddam’s regime. Prosecutors say Iraqi intelligence officials paid for the trip through an intermediary.
The IS calls them ‘Inghemasiyoun,’ Arabic for “those who immerse themselves.” The elite shock troops are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group’s arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death, wearing explosives belts to blow themselves up among their opponents if they face defeat
BAGHDAD (AP) — Bearded and wearing bright blue bandanas, the Islamic State group’s “special forces” unit gathered around their commander just before they attacked the central Syrian town of al-Sukhna. “Victory or martyrdom,” they screamed, pledging their allegiance to God and vowing never to retreat.
“They tend to use their foreign fighters as suicide bombers. People go to the Islamic State looking to die, and the Islamic State is happy to help them.”
— Patrick Skinner, a former CIA officer who now directs special operations for The Soufan Group, a private geopolitical risk assessment company
The IS calls them “Inghemasiyoun,” Arabic for “those who immerse themselves.” The elite shock troops are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group’s arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death, wearing explosives belts to blow themselves up among their opponents if they face defeat. They are credited with many of the group’s stunning battlefield successes — including the capture of al-Sukhna in May after the scene shown in an online video released by the group.
“They cause chaos and then their main ground offensive begins,” said Redur Khalil, spokesman of the U.S.-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which have taken the lead in a string of military successes against the IS in Syria.
In this photo released on June 23, 2015 by a website of Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant fires artillery against Syrian government forces in Hama city, Syria. Special troops called “Inghemasiyoun,” Arabic for “those who immerse themselves,” are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group’s arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death. (Militant website via AP)
“The fighters incorporate suicide bombings as a fearsome battlefield tactic to break through lines and demoralize enemies, and they are constantly honing them to make them more effective.”
Though best known for its horrific brutalities — from its grotesque killings of captives to enslavement of women — the Islamic State group has proved to be a highly organized and flexible fighting force, according to senior Iraqi military and intelligence officials and Syrian Kurdish commanders on the front lines.
Its tactics are often creative, whether it’s using a sandstorm as cover for an assault or a lone sniper tying himself to the top of a palm tree to pick off troops below. Its forces nimbly move between conventional and guerrilla warfare, using the latter to wear down their opponents before massed fighters backed by armored vehicles, Humvees and sometimes even artillery move to take over territory. The fighters incorporate suicide bombings as a fearsome battlefield tactic to break through lines and demoralize enemies, and they are constantly honing them to make them more effective. Recently, they beefed up the front armor of the vehicles used in those attacks to prevent gunfire from killing the driver or detonating explosives prematurely.
“The group is also flush with weaponry looted from Iraqi forces that fled its blitzkrieg a year ago, when IS overtook the northern city of Mosul and other areas.”
Those strategies are being carried over into new fronts, appearing in Egypt in last week’s dramatic attack by an IS-linked militant group against the military in the Sinai Peninsula.
Andreas Krieg, a professor at King’s College London who embedded with Iraqi Kurdish fighters last fall, said IS local commanders are given leeway to operate as they see fit. They “have overall orders on strategy and are expected to come up with the most efficient ways of adapting it,” he said. The group “is very much success oriented, results oriented.” That’s a strong contrast to the rigid, inefficient and corrupt hierarchies of the Iraqi and Syrian militaries, where officers often fear taking any action without direct approval from higher up.
IS fighters are highly disciplined — swift execution is the punishment for deserting battle or falling asleep on guard duty, Iraqi officers said. The group is also flush with weaponry looted from Iraqi forces that fled its blitzkrieg a year ago, when IS overtook the northern city of Mosul and other areas. Much of the heavy weapons it holds — including artillery and tanks — have hardly been used, apparently on reserve for a future battle. Read the rest of this entry »
The sale of church buildings has become commonplace in France – but a recent proposal to convert a church to a mosque has triggered a nationwide controversy. Church congregations in France are dwindling and the town of Vierzon is no exception. With a population of only 27,000, Vierzon is home to six Roman Catholic churches. To balance its books, the local diocese decided to sell one of the churches. But tempers flared after a Moroccan Muslim organization said it wanted to buy the church and convert it to a mosque.
Figuring out that you are pursuing a losing strategy is more difficult than outsiders might believe.
Peter D. Feaver writes: President Obama is under fire for explaining the lack of progress in the fight against the Islamic State on the fact that he does not “yet have a complete strategy.” This apparently candid concession echoes the one he made 10 months ago when he acknowledged that “we don’t have a strategy yet” to confront the Islamic State.
“The problem with the strategy is that it is not working, in the sense of advancing U.S. interests in the region and achieving the stated objectives.”
Critics are understandably lambasting the president for the apparent dilatoriness, and I have some sympathy for the critique. If you begin the clock with President Obama’s remarkable January 2014 dismissal of the Islamic State as a “jayvee threat” — something the White House still pretends the president did not say, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — and trace the president’s response to the growing Islamic State threat, the charge of delinquency is almost impossible to deny.
“In the absence of U.S. leadership, local partners did not step up quickly enough to stop the Islamic State when the threat could be easily contained. Now rolling back the group’s advances requires more punch than the locals can deliver without a substantial increase in American commitment.”
Yet, in this instance, I think the critics and the president are both wrong. The problem is not an absence of strategy, it is that the strategy that does exist is failing and the administration is not yet willing to admit that fact.
The strategy is pretty self-evident: U.S. forces are operating under stringent self-imposed limitations so as to incentivize local partners (the Iraqi government, Sunni tribes, and moderate rebels in Syria) to do more. The United States is prepared perhaps to do a bit more if local actors do a lot more, but if local actors do not step up, the United States is not prepared to do more. On the contrary, the United States is prepared to accept hitherto “unacceptable” setbacks — the fall of Mosul, the fall of Ramadi, the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, the regional expansion of Iranian-backed terrorist organizations and militias, and on and on — rather than intervene more decisively.
“This is a recognizable strategy. There is even a catchy name for it: leading from behind.”
The problem with the strategy is that it is not working, in the sense of advancing U.S. interests in the region and achieving the stated objectives (“destroy and degrade ISIL”). In the absence of U.S. leadership, local partners did not step up quickly enough to stop the Islamic State when the threat could be easily contained. Now rolling back the group’s advances requires more punch than the locals can deliver without a substantial increase in American commitment. Read the rest of this entry »
How much the Islamic State earns from the trade is difficult to estimate. Iraqi officials say it is the group’s second most important commercial activity after oil sales, earning the militants tens of millions of dollars
BAGHDAD — Loveday Morris writes: Islamic State militants have provoked a global outcry by attacking ancient monuments with jackhammers and bulldozers. But they also have been quietly selling off smaller antiquities from Iraq and Syria, earning millions of dollars in an increasingly organized pillaging of national treasures, according to officials and experts.
“They steal everything that they can sell, and what they can’t sell, they destroy.”
— Qais Hussein Rasheed, Iraq’s deputy minister for antiquities and heritage
The Islamic State has defended its destruction of cultural artifacts by saying they are idolatrous and represent pre-Islamic cultures. Behind the scenes, though, the group’s looting has become so systematic that the Islamic State has incorporated the practice into the structure of its self-declared caliphate, granting licenses for digging at historic sites through a department of “precious resources.”
“The longer until Mosul is liberated, the more the danger that our human legacy will be wiped out.”
— Amr al-Julaimi, a lecturer in Mosul University’s antiquities department
The growing trade reflects how Islamic State fighters have entrenched themselves since seizing the Iraqi city of Mosul a year ago Wednesday, in a dramatic expansion of the territory they control in this country and neighboring Syria.
“Islamic State has incorporated the activity of excavation into its bureaucracy.”
— Aymenn al-Tamimi, a researcher on jihadist groups at the Britain-based Middle East Forum
The extremist group’s recent capture of Syria’s majestic 2,000-year-old ruins at Palmyra threw a spotlight on the risk that the Islamic State poses to the region’s rich cultural heritage. It is, however, just one of 4,500 sites under the group’s control, according to the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force. “They steal everything that they can sell, and what they can’t sell, they destroy,” said Qais Hussein Rasheed, Iraq’s deputy minister for antiquities and heritage.
A calcareous stone statue is displayed at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad. (Hadi Mizban/AP)
“It’s a dependable source of revenue, which makes it very attractive, and it’s surprisingly untapped. Over time, we’ve seen ISIL and organizations like it increase their ability to draw revenue from these crimes.”
— Michael Danti, a professor of archaeology at Boston University
“We have noticed that the smuggling of antiquities has greatly increased since last June,” he added, referring to the month in which Islamic State militants took control of Mosul and large parts of northern Iraq. At that time, militants also seized the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh. In a video released earlier this year, the Islamic State showed its fighters drilling off the faces of the mighty stone-winged bulls on the gates of the city. The militants also filmed themselves destroying statues at Mosul’s museum. But many of those items were actually replicas of antiquities kept in Baghdad, Iraqi officials said. Anything genuine and small enough to move was likely sold off or stockpiled by the militants, they said.
Iraq has suffered from years of despoilment of its historic sites, as thieves have taken advantage of instability in the country. The sacking of the poorly guarded National Museum in Baghdad after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 was decried around the world. Read the rest of this entry »
In the jihadists’ extreme interpretation of Islam, statues, idols, and shrines amount to recognizing other objects of worship than God and must be destroyed
Karim Abou Merhi and Jean Marc Mojon, AFP: The Islamic State group began bulldozing the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq, the government said, in the jihadists’ latest attack on the country’s historical heritage.
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, “assaulted the historic city of Nimrud and bulldozed it with heavy vehicles,” the tourism and antiquities ministry said on an official Facebook page.
“These artifacts behind me are idols for people from ancient times who worshipped them instead of God.”
— Bearded militant appearing in the video
An Iraqi antiquities official confirmed the news, saying the destruction began after noon prayers on Thursday and that trucks that may have been used to haul away artifacts had also been spotted at the site.
“Until now, we do not know to what extent it was destroyed,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Nimrud, one of the jewels of the Assyrian era, was founded in the 13th century B.C. and lies on the Tigris River about 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Mosul, Iraq‘s second-biggest city and the main hub of ISIS in the country.
“I’m sorry to say everybody was expecting this. Their plan is to destroy Iraqi heritage, one site at a time.”
— Abdulamir Hamdani, an Iraqi archaeologist from Stony Brook University
“I’m really devastated. But it was just a matter of time.”
Nimrud is the site of what was described as one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century when a team unearthed a collection of jewels and precious stones in 1988.
The jewels were briefly displayed at the Iraqi national museum before disappearing from public view, but they survived the looting that followed the 2003 US invasion and were eventually found in a Central Bank building.
Most of Nimrud’s priceless artifacts have long been moved to museums, in Mosul, Baghdad, Paris, London, and elsewhere, but giant “lamassu” statues — winged bulls with human heads — and reliefs were still on site.
YouTube screenshot General view of the Nimrud archaeological site.
The destruction at Nimrud on Thursday came a week after the jihadist group released a video showing militants armed with sledgehammers and jackhammers smashing priceless ancient artifacts at the Mosul museum.
That attack sparked widespread consternation and alarm, with some archaeologists and heritage experts comparing it with the 2001 demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban.
In the jihadists’ extreme interpretation of Islam, statues, idols, and shrines amount to recognizing other objects of worship than God and must be destroyed.
YouTube screenshotUS troops at Nimrud in 2003.
The video released by ISIS last week showed militants knocking statues off their plinths and rampaging through the Mosul museum’s collection.
It also shows jihadists using a jackhammer to deface an imposing granite Assyrian winged bull at the Nergal Gate in Mosul. Read the rest of this entry »
Iraq’s Christians once numbered about 1.5 million. There are now believed to be less than 500,000 out of a population estimated at 32 million, according to the US State Department’s 2013 International Religious Freedom Report.
(Reuters) – Baghdad’s embattled Christian community worshipped defiantly Wednesday night at Christmas Eve mass.
“The recent conditions have left us with a bit of sadness for our brethren, be they Christian or non-Christian, those who were displaced and harmed.”
The pews filled at Baghdad’s Sacred Heart church, as people remembered the darkest year in memory.
Blast walls shielded the church and seven policeman flanked the outside of the house of worship, in an indication of the government’s fear of an attack on the religious groups by jihadists who consider them non-believers.
“Christianity is the religion of peace and we pray for these people to return to their homes. We pray for all evil to vanish.”
The congregation sang in unison: “Praise Jesus, our Lord. Oh praise him” as incense burnt in the darkened church.
“We celebrate the happiness of Christmas, but deep inside we carry the sadness of Iraq.”
The worshippers paid tribute to the thousands of Christians displaced this summer in northern Iraq when Islamic State seized the city of Mosul in June and in August pushed on toward Iraqi Kurdistan, over-running Christian towns on the Nineveh plain. Read the rest of this entry »
Mary Chastain reports: According to reports, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) murdered four journalists on November 4 and five on November 6 in Mosul, Iraq. Since the terrorist group drove out journalists when they took over the city in June, the reports cannot be confirmed.
“It is currently very hard to get any reliable information from either Iraq or Syria. This example of contradictory information demonstrates the difficulty or even impossibility for journalists to work.”
A source toldRudaw the jihadist group murdered “brothers Ahmed and Aitar Rafi, Mohandis Yasir, Yasir Alqaisi, and Modhas Adari” in the Sumar district last Thursday. This resident said the Islamic State accused the journalists of being spies. On Tuesday, local residents toldHaaretz the militants murdered four journalists. Their bodies were given to medical authorities. Read the rest of this entry »
James Jeffrey, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010 to 2012, pushed back against President Obama’s claim that the intelligence community was caught off guard by the rise of the Islamic State, claiming the White House knew all about the jihadist group’s destructive potential.
In a PBS Frontline documentary to air this week, the ambassador explained that the administration “not only was warned by everybody back in January, it actually announced it was going to intensify its support against ISIS with the Iraqi armed forces. And it did almost nothing.” Read the rest of this entry »
Evidence indicates that militants from the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group executed more than 500 captives in Iraq earlier this year, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday. Around 1,700 soldiers surrendered to IS in June after its fighters seized second city Mosul and swept south towards Baghdad.
“The barbarity of the Islamic State violates the law and grossly offends the conscience.”
ISIS subsequently released photographs of dozens of men in civilian clothes apparently being executed by firing squad in desert areas, and said it had killed hundreds in total.
“Another piece of this gruesome puzzle has come into place, with many more executions now confirmed.”
— Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at HRW
“Information from a survivor and analysis of videos and satellite imagery has confirmed the existence of three more mass execution sites, bringing the total to five, and the number of dead to between 560 and 770 men, all or most of them apparently captured Iraqi army soldiers,” HRW said.
“Another piece of this gruesome puzzle has come into place, with many more executions now confirmed,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at the rights watchdog. Read the rest of this entry »
The problem with that question is that the answer is as easy as it is useless. Yes, ISIS is evil and must be stopped. Saying so over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them…(more)
…National Review’s Jonah Goldberg tried to shame those who are trying to think seriously about ISIS. In a recent tweet, he mocked the attempt to understand ISIS in its social and political context, suggesting that we should focus instead on one fact: “They’re evil. They do obviously evil things for evil ends.”
…Dawes gets just about everything wrong here — and in the rest of his essay. For starters I didn’t “mock the attempt to understand ISIS in its social and political context.” Rather, I mocked those who try to understand ISIS without acknowledging the most salient moral fact: They’re evil. Here’s my full tweet.
People looking to put ISIS in “context” desperately avoid most obvious context. They’re evil. They do obviously evil things for evil ends.
The rest of the piece is just a string of question begging assertions and strawmen wrapped in a lot of self-congratulatory intellectual preening about his willingness to do the serious thinking others won’t do…(read more here)
We’re not talking enough about the situation for Christians in Mosul, Iraq. I am guilty of this, too. Yes, my pastor is sending out reminders for us to pray for our brethren in the region. Yes, we include petitions for the ancient Christian community there, which has now been wiped away, in our prayers. We discuss their plight in Bible Class. But the world is not speaking much about — much less thinking much about — what this religious cleansing means and what we should be doing about it.
As comedian Penn Jillete elegantly pointed out, the way people avoid giving offense to Islam amounts to a damning condemnation in itself. It is perhaps the worst Western insult offered to Islamic people in the Middle East that we almost universally assume there’s not much point in asking them to recognize the human rights of Christians. We don’t even expect polite reciprocity. Italy is expected to welcome one of the largest mosques in the world, funded by Saudi Arabia. But no one can build even a modest church in Saudi Arabia. In Egypt, Christians can’t even repair a wall in a church without explicit permission from the sovereign. Qatar has laws that punish people who convert from Islam to Christianity with death, but there’s no planned boycott of their upcoming World Cup because of it. We watch ISIS blow up what many consider the tomb of the prophet Jonah and just sigh, helplessly. If silence permits Islamist persecution to grow and criticism only enflames its violent zeal, France’s gesture of solidarity with Iraq’s Christians has to be joined by many more countries in the West. It might as well start with the United States, which has played such a large role across this region over the last three decades while taking so little responsibility for the results.
It’s time for more Americans to learn about what happened to the Christians of Mosul and think about what we can do to help.
Human rights lawyer Nina Shea described the horror in Mosul to me: “(ISIS) took the Christians’ houses, took the cars they were driving to leave. They took all their money. One old woman had her life savings of $40,000, and she said, ‘Can I please have 100 dollars?’, and they said no. They took wedding rings off fingers, chopping off fingers if they couldn’t get the ring off.”
“There is nothing to go back to even if ISIS left“
“We now have 5,000 destitute, homeless people with no future,” Shea said. “This is a crime against humanity.”
All but defenseless against ISIS and suffering from punishing shortages of vital resources, Iraq’s ancient Christian communities are taking their only option: leave.
BARTILLA, IRAQ—For The Daily Beast, Jamie Dettmer reports: The Christians of Bartilla are wondering if these are the final days. Since the second century and the origins of Christianity in the Nineveh plains of northern Iraq, they have been unfortunate in their neighbors, suffering attacks and massacres at the hands of Persians, Iraqi Muslims and Kurds. And if geography is destiny, then it is surprising they are still here, but for how much longer they aren’t sure.
Destiny is barking again as far as the town’s Assyrian Christians are concerned. A mere 10-minute drive from Bartilla and other small neighboring Christian towns, jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have set up their most advanced position on the eastern side of the city of Mosul. There are a dozen Kurdish fighters manning an opposing sunbaked checkpoint. Unsurprisingly, despite the protective presence in the area of other Kurdish peshmerga forces, the 16,000 Christians of Bartilla are wondering if they will face a terminal assault.
Standing at the Peshmerga checkpoint, I wave at the jihadist frontier post but see no reciprocal gesture coming from the other side. The representatives of the (Muslim) second coming apparently have the gaze of W.B. Yeats’ rough beast—“blank and pitiless as the sun.” “We have had no contact with them,” says a Kurdish fighter about the jihadist guards two or three hundred meters away. The Kurd squints at me and asks if I want to go to Mosul. And then makes a slashing gesture across his throat and laughs.In Bartilla, Fr. Binham Lallou of the Chaldean Catholic Church, who was born in the down-at-heel, dusty town and returned after studying in Lebanon for the priesthood, says: “We are scared there is going to be a disaster. People are afraid of the jihadists and afraid of the Iraqi government, maybe they will come with airplanes and bomb here.” Read the rest of this entry »
For The Independent, Patrick Cockburn reports: Iraq is breaking up. The Kurds have taken the northern oil city of Kirkuk that they have long claimed as their capital. Sunni fundamentalist fighters vow to capture Baghdad and the Shia holy cities further south.
“The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga. No Iraqi army remains in Kirkuk.”
— Peshmerga spokesman Jabbar Yawar.
Government rule over the Sunni Arab heartlands of north and central Iraq is evaporating as its 900,000-strong army disintegrates. Government aircraft have fired missiles at insurgent targets in Mosul, captured by Isis on Monday, but the Iraqi army has otherwise shown no sign of launching a counter-attack.
The nine-year Shia dominance over Iraq, established after the US, Britain and other allies overthrew Saddam Hussein, may be coming to an end. The Shia may continue to hold the capital and the Shia-majority provinces further south, but they will have great difficulty in re-establishing their authority over Sunni provinces from which their army has fled.
Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) posing with the trademark Jihadists flag after they allegedly seized an Iraqi army checkpoint in the northern Iraqi province of Salahuddin on June 11, 2014.(AFP Photo / HO / Welayat Salahuddin)
It is unlikely that the Kurds will give up Kirkuk. “The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga [Kurdish soldiers],” said the peshmerga spokesman Jabbar Yawar. “No Iraqi army remains in Kirkuk.”
Foreign intervention is more likely to come from Iran than the US. The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran would act to combat “the violence and terrorism” of Isis”. Iran emerged as the most influential foreign power in Baghdad after 2003. As a fellow Shia-majority state, Iraq matters even more to Iran than Syria. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON — For RealClearPolitics, David Ignatius writes: The capture Tuesday of Mosul, the hub of northern Iraq, by al-Qaeda-linked militants is an alarm bell that violent extremists are on the rise again in the Middle East. And it’s a good time for President Obama to explain more about how he plans to fight this menace without making the mistakes of the past.
“Obama had the better of that exchange, certainly for a war-weary America that a few weeks later gave him a new mandate. But looking back, which picture was closer to the truth? Probably Romney’s.”
Obama needs to alert the country to the renewed extremist threat partly to clarify the record. Just 19 months ago, he won re-election arguing that his policies had vanquished the most dangerous core elements of al-Qaeda. But the organization has morphed, and deadly new battles are ahead.
“The return of al-Qaeda isn’t Obama’s fault; there are too many complicated factors at work here. But it helps explain the seething rage of many Republicans about Benghazi…”
The campaign theme that the worst terrorist threat had been licked was vividly drawn in the third debate between Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, on Oct. 22, 2012.
“…They argue that the attack there on Sept. 11, 2012, which killed four Americans, was an early warning sign of rising chaos and extremism in the Middle East — and that Obama made it through Election Day partly by minimizing this problem.”
ARBIL, IRAQ – JUNE 9: Thousand of people run away from Mosul to Arbil and Duhok due to the clashes between security forces and militants of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Arbil, Iraq on June 9, 2014.(Photo by Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Militants seized Mosul’s airport, TV stations, the governor’s office and other parts, if not all, of the northern Iraqi city.
“I only … saw armed people, but not Iraqi military,” said resident Firas al-Maslawi of his drive through Mosul on Tuesday. “There was no presence of any government forces on the streets, the majority of their posts destroyed and manned by (Islamist militants).”
Other witnesses painted similar scenes, of buildings and boulevards manned not by Iraqi soldiers or police but rather by men they say the extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an al Qaeda splinter group also known by its acronym ISIS.
Mosul wasn’t the only place in the country beset by violence Tuesday, including some focused closer to the capital of Baghdad. Still, what’s happening in this northern Iraqi city is the most serious, given its size, the bloodshed’s scope and the brewing humanitarian situation tied to it. Read the rest of this entry »
(BAGHDAD) — A new wave of car bombs hit Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and a suicide bomber targeted soldiers in a northern city in attacks that killed at least 56 across Iraq on Sunday, officials said.
Coordinated bombing onslaughts killing scores of people have hit Iraq multiple times each month, feeding a spike in bloodshed that has left over 5,000 since April. The local branch of al-Qaida often takes responsibility, although there was no immediate claim for Sunday’s blasts.
Four police officers said that the bombs in the capital, placed in parked cars and detonated over a half-hour, targeted commercial areas and parking lots, killing 42. Read the rest of this entry »