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The Hostage Situation That Keeps Turkey From Going After Islamic State

By , September 2, 2014 3:15 pm

Civil servants stage a protest outside the Foreign Ministry in Ankara, Turkey, on July 17, demanding the release of 49 officials seized by Islamic militants in June at the Turkish consulate in Mosul, Iraq (photo: Burhan Ozbilici/AP).The rise of the jihadist Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has affected both the economy and security of its powerful neighbor Turkey. Yet Turkey has not taken the fight to the militants. A prolonged hostage crisis is a big part of the reason. In early June, when the militants overran Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, they also took over the Turkish consulate there, capturing 49 people including the consul general and three children. Within days, Turkish media outlets were banned from reporting on any developments in the crisis. The hostages remain captive.

“It is very difficult now for Turkey to manage the situation,” says Yasar Yakis, a former foreign minister. “Its hands are tied. Especially after the execution of [the American journalist James Foley] it has become all the more difficult to do something which Islamic State might perceive as a wrong move.” On Tuesday, the militants claimed to have beheaded Steven Sotloff, another U.S. journalist they were holding as a “second lesson to the United States.”

Turkey officially labels Islamic State a terrorist group, but Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, who was elected president in August after more than a decade as prime minister, has been reluctant to label the organization as such. At the end of June, shortly after the militants captured the consulate, he warned Turkish media and the political opposition not to pressure him into making “provocative statements regarding this group.” Ahmet Davutoglu, the newly appointed prime minister, more recently referred to Islamic State as “a radical organization with a terrorist-like structure.”

That organization with a terrorist-like structure has set up shop just over an hour away by car, across the Syrian border, from Turkey’s Gaziantep province, a booming export hub in the country’s south. The war in Syria had already made a dent in the local economy, cutting off Turkish traders from markets in Jordan, Lebanon, and the Persian Gulf. A month after Islamic State overran Mosul and other Iraqi cities, the province’s exports to Iraq fell 48 percent compared with last year’s figures, according to Gaziantep’s chamber of commerce.

Islamic State “has blocked the trade routes from the northern part [of Iraq] to the center,” says one food producer, who asked not to be named because of his company’s policy. “We had 15,000 metric tons going to Iraq every month [by truck]. Over the last two months that has basically stopped.” Turkey’s overall trade with Iraq has dropped 32 percent since June.

Where trade has slowed, smuggling has thrived. Since the start of the war in Syria, the amount of fuel seized at the border has tripled, according to Turkish government sources. Produced and refined on the cheap, the petrol makes its way into Turkey by truck, hauled across the border inside jerrycans or pumped through plastic pipelines. Middlemen purchase the fuel at anywhere from 1 to 1.5 liras ($ 0.46 to $ 0.69) per liter, reports Ali Ediboglu, an opposition lawmaker. By the time it arrives in places like Gaziantep, locals say, it sells for about 3 liras.

Turks pay about 5 liras per liter at the pump, more than in most countries in Europe, and double the average price in the U.S.

A large chunk of the profits appears to be going straight into Islamic State’s coffers. The Sunni militants control about 60 percent of crude oil production assets in Syria, in addition to several oil wells in Iraq, says Luay al-Khateeb, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center. “Actual production could be about 50,000 barrels per day,” he says. “Assuming a cost of $ 50 or 60 per barrel, that would mean sales of up to $ 3 million.” While some of the fuel is sold or distributed locally, he says, the rest is smuggled to southern Turkey. “It’s the only export market that Islamic State has.”

The amounts might seem paltry, al-Khateeb says, “but they definitely [help] expand operations and recruit new members.” Before the June 10 attack on Mosul, experts put the total number of Islamic State fighters at 10,000. That number is now said to have at least doubled. Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi expert on Sunni insurgencies, puts it between 30,000 and 50,000.

Turkey has repeatedly come under fire, both at home and abroad, for allowing insurgents of all stripes–from moderates to hardline Islamists–to cross into Syria. Turkish officials acknowledge that many militants have been able to slip through the 560-mile border but deny lending them any support. The government has introduced stricter border controls and started screening passengers on inbound flights. It has also started to crack down on the illegal fuel trade. “We try to make sure that those smugglers know that if they smuggle now, it will be related to terrorism,” says one official.

Assyrian International News Agency

Gruesome Evidence of Ethnic Cleansing in North Iraq As ISIS Moves to Wipe Out Minorities

By , September 2, 2014 9:33 am

Gruesome Evidence of Ethnic Cleansing in North Iraq As ISIS Moves to Wipe Out Minorities

Assyrian refugees in Ankawa, Iraq.Fresh evidence uncovered by Amnesty International indicates that members of the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) have launched a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq, carrying out war crimes, including mass summary killings and abductions, against ethnic and religious minorities.

A new briefing, Ethnic cleansing on historic scale: the Islamic State’s systematic targeting of minorities in northern Iraq, published today presents a series of hair-raising accounts from survivors of massacres who describe how dozens of men and boys in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq were rounded up by Islamic State fighters, bundled into pick-up trucks and taken to village outskirts to be massacred in groups or shot individually. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of women and children, along with scores of men, from the Yezidi minority have also been abducted since the Islamic State took control of the area.

“The massacres and abductions being carried out by the Islamic State provide harrowing new evidence that a wave of ethnic cleansing against minorities is sweeping across northern Iraq,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser currently in northern in Iraq.

“The Islamic State is carrying out despicable crimes and has transformed rural areas of Sinjar into blood-soaked killing fields in its brutal campaign to obliterate all trace of non- Arabs and non-Sunni Muslims.”

Amnesty International has gathered evidence that several mass killings took place in Sinjar in August. Two of the deadliest incidents took place when IS fighters raided the villages of Qiniyeh on 3 August and Kocho on 15 August. The number of those killed in these villages alone runs into the hundreds. Groups of men and boys including children as young as 12 from both villages were seized by IS militants, taken away and shot.

“There was no order, they [the IS fighters] just filled up vehicles indiscriminately,” one survivor of the massacre in Kocho told Amnesty International.

Said, who also narrowly escaped death with his brother, Khaled, was shot five times; three times in his left knee and once in the hip and shoulder. They lost seven brothers in the massacre. Another survivor, Salem, who managed to hide and survive near the massacre site for 12 days described to Amnesty International the horror of hearing others who had been injured cry out in pain.

“Some could not move and could not save themselves; they lay there in agony waiting to die. They died a horrible death. I managed to drag myself away and was saved by a Muslim neighbour; he risked his life to save me; he is more than a brother to me. For 12 days he brought me food and water every night. I could not walk and had no hope of getting away and it was becoming increasingly dangerous for him to continue to keep me there,” he said.

He was later able to escape by donkey and rode to the mountains and then on into the areas controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

The mass killings and abductions have succeeded in terrorizing the entire population in northern Iraq leading thousands to flee in fear for their lives.

The fate of most of the hundreds of Yezidis abducted and held captive by the Islamic State remains unknown. Many of those held by IS have been threatened with rape or sexual assault or pressured to convert to Islam. In some cases entire families have been abducted.

One man who gave Amnesty International a list of 45 names of missing relatives — all of whom are women and children said: “We get news from some of them but others are missing and we don’t know if they are alive or dead or what has happened to them.”

“Instead of aggravating the fighting by either turning a blind eye to sectarian militias or arming Shi’a militias against the Islamic State as the authorities have done so far, Iraq’s government should focus on protecting all civilians regardless of their ethnicity or religion,” said Donatella Rovera.

“The people of northern Iraq deserve to live free from persecution without fearing for their lives at every turn. Those ordering, carrying out, or assisting in these war crimes must be apprehended and brought to justice.”

Since taking control of Mosul on 10 June, IS militants have also systematically destroyed and damaged places of worship of non-Sunni Muslim communities including Shi’a mosques and shrines.

Background

Among the ethnic and religious minorities being targeted in northern Iraq are: Assyrian Christians, Turkmen Shi’a, Shabak Shi’a, members of the Yezidi faith, Kakai and Sabean Mandaeans. Many Arabs and Sunni Muslims known or believed to oppose IS have also been targeted in apparent reprisal attacks.

Assyrian International News Agency

AFRICOM-Lite: The Obama Administration’s Security Governance Initiative for Africa

By , September 2, 2014 3:53 am
SGI continues the failed AFRICOM tradition of giving Africans a greater role in supporting foreign corporate penetration of their continent as if it were in their own interest. (Photo: USAFRICOM / Flickr)

SGI continues the failed AFRICOM tradition of giving Africans a greater role in supporting foreign corporate penetration of their continent as if it were in their own interest. (Photo: USAFRICOM / Flickr)

While the media attention in the United States is riveted on the Israeli war against Gaza, on the ISIS offensive in Iraq and Syria, accomplished for the most part with guerrillas trained by U.S. allies (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel), and the ongoing attempts to consolidate the neoliberal hold on the Ukraine in the name of “democracy,” some other global developments have gone largely unnoticed.

Among them is the August 6, 2014 announcement of a new Obama Administration “initiative” for Africa. Actually there are two: the so-called “Security Governance Initiative for Africa” (SGI) on the one hand and “the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership, called A-PREP for short, on the other. Old wine in new bottles?…or old wine in old bottles slightly polished up?

SGI involves providing aid – with strings attached as usual – to Ghana, Kenya, Mali Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia. On one level SGI is a response to the threat to African development posed by Islamic radical groups Al Qaeda of the Maghreb (AQIM), Al Shabbab, and Boko Haram. But its ulterior motive – actually quite openly stated – is to make the targeted African countries more secure for foreign investment, thus, as the old cliché goes, killing two birds with one stone. The stated goal of the program is to insure the security environment of these countries as a way of encouraging future U.S. investment, and as Tunisian commentator Yassine Bellamine notes in a recent article at the Tunisian website Nawaat.org “as a way to play a more active role in what is shaping up to be a new investor El dorado in the near future, Africa.” (Author’s translation.)

A-PREP has a somewhat different, but related goal: to “address short-falls in Africa-based peace keeping forces.” Noting that a number of recent crises (Central African Republic, Libya, Tunisia, Somalia, Kenya, even Algeria to name a few) have exposed the weaknesses of emergency-ready African forces, A-PREP will focus uniquely on military training and assistance to six African countries: Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda to try to improve “rapid peace keeping.”

Both poorly funded and in competition with other U.S. sponsored initiatives, A-PREP is essentially an attempt to make African militaries more responsive to security emergencies. The funding of SGI in the first year entails a mere $ 33 million to be divided between the six countries involved. Not much really. A-PREP will disperse some $ 110 million to the countries it covers, perhaps a bit more that SGI funding, but in the end, not all that much. Perhaps the funding will increase in the coming years?

SGI is in some ways a more classic counter-insurgency program whose goal is to strengthen economic development by strengthening security. At least “in principle” it tries to coordinate private sector foreign investors with the African militaries and U.S. military advisers so as to make security measures a kind of team effort, thus sharing the financial and human risks. These programs appear to be a way to somewhat soften U.S. security moves into Africa after a period in which African nations have become somewhat wary of what might be called “the AFRICOM approach.” It comes after a several year effort to find an African home to host AFRICOM has failed. To sweeten the pot, allay fears and to involve the corporations themselves in the business of securing their own profits, these initiatives have been undertaken.

Given the paltry amounts with which each of the two initiatives is funded, it is difficult to take either of them seriously. Earlier this year, in May, the Obama Administration proposed a $ 5 billion “Counter-terrorism Partnerships Fund” to Congress that would fund anti-terrorism projects in 35 countries. Cut by Congress to a $ 2.9 billion program, still it remains a sizable international commitment. In contrast, proposed funding for SGI stands at $ 65 million, that for A-PREP at $ 110 million a year over a three-to-five year period. Add to the mostly symbolic sums the fact that the programs are largely redundant with a number of other and better funded AFRICOM-related programs and one has to wonder if these initiatives are little more than an inter-agency rivalry in which the State Department is trying to elbow its way into African policy more and more dominated by the Defense Department and presidentially directed operations like the secretive “Special Forces Operations’ Command” (SFOC).

Both initiative were announced at the tail end of a Brookings’ Institute conference held two days prior, on August 4, 2014 entitled, “The Game Has Changed: The New Landscape for Innovation and Business in Africa” that featured a gathering of international business people, government officials, and academics concerned with Africa. The main concern of this corporate-state-academic shindig was to insure possible investors – U.S. companies, it is claimed, have already invested some $ 33 billion in Africa – that the security situation on the continent will be assured. As a part of this “happy think” the conference assured its participants, a bit too often it appears, that the economic and social situation on the continent is improving some and that life in general is getting better, a position that requires considerable public relations skills to substantiate.

No one stated it better than Mirangi Kimenyi, Brookings’ own Africa specialist in opening the conference:

“The game indeed has changed. We have a new Africa and the focus is no longer clamoring for aid. Today we are talking about investment, entrepreneurial-ship, innovation and so-on.”

The basis for this untoward optimism was sketched out by Yassine Bellamine (cited above)  that gives projected growth rates (based mostly on African Development Bank stats) for a number of African countries. Projected growth rates for Ghana in 2015 today stand at 8%, Kenya in 2014 at 5.7%, Mali at 6.7%. The African Development Bank also predicts a turnaround in the Tunisian economy from its -1.8% shrinkage in the coming years. Historically, such traditional statistical measurements of economic growth relate very little – virtually nothing – about expected rates of employment, income distribution, or state funds going to social programs. Nor do they indicate what branches of the stated economy are expected to grow. So, even here, the rosy picture probably does not reflect the situation on the ground, or if it does, rather poorly.

Bellaine goes on to indicate that initiatives like SGI have ulterior motives, noting that they have more to do with providing a safe environment for multinational corporate investment, than providing security for the nations involved. It is true that SGI gives priority to U.S. economic interests and strategic goals in Africa and at the same time, will press the governments involved to make the necessary legal and economic reforms to make foreign investment “more efficient,” with all that this implies. She wonders whether such aid, which helps alleviate the country’s short term crisis, would in the long-term, have a deleterious impact on Tunisian economic growth perspectives.

Bellaine’s critique, for all that, is rather mild, suggestive. Essentially she is raising an issue that not just Tunisian, but all of the countries accepting aid by these programs. To what degree will the countries involved be drawn into U.S. strategic plans for both sub-Saharan Africa and the Maghreb? What is the end game? What is “the catch” for, as is well-known, aid always comes “conditional.” Do the countries involved understand the conditions? Have there been extensive national discussions? The answer to these more profound questions is quite obvious.

Other critiques have been voiced. They vary from the milk-toast variety that essentially accept the logic of the program but raise a few technical issues, to more profound critiques as to consequences of such programs.

• In an article published at the Brooking’s Institute website, The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: Security Initiatives Are Critical to Cementing Africa’s Gains,” Dane Erickson (University of Colorado – Denver) and Alice Friend (former Principal Director for African Affairs at the Pentagon 2012-2014) while supporting these security initiatives, take a more somber view of them, noting that “…the U.S. and its African security partners must move beyond hollow discussions of the ‘militarization’ of U.S. -Africa policy, a criticism most associated with the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). In that light, while not giving much detail, Erickson and Friend note the lack of enthusiasm (and one might add general failure) of previous efforts to militarize Africa, specifically the much touted – at least in government circles – Trans- Sahel Counter-Terrorism Program.

• Far more pointed, questioning SGI and A-Prep, and programs of this nature, is Alex De Waal and Abdul Mohammed’s August 15, 2014 op-ed in the New York Times, “Handmaiden to Africa’s Generals.” Serious concerns about the nature of the program, and the history of programs like it are put forth here. De Wall and Mohammed put SGI and A-PREP within the broader context of Obama Administration global policy of “scaling back the deployment of US troops to combat terrorism” to be increasingly replaced with a new strategy which “translates largely into training and equipping African armies.”

Other than the adjective “new” this is an accurate description of what these programs are about. SGI, A-PREP and like programs essentially parallel U.S. efforts to extricate itself militarily from Afghanistan and Iraq by placing more of the military/security burden on regional allies, and less on the U.S. military, spread increasingly thin worldwide. While the results of turning over security operations in Afghanistan remain to be seen – but already have raised grave doubts as to the viability of the Afghan military to accomplish the task – the effort to achieve such a new security balance in Iraq is, as the whole world duly notes, an utter failure, harkening back to the “Vietnamization” policies of Nixon and Kissinger forty years past.

In the case of Africa, strengthening the “efficiency” (think of what that has meant historically) of African militaries is a part of a strategy of minimizing U.S. “boots on the ground” – to use the cliche to avoid the term “military intervention” – by trying to give Africans more of a role in supporting foreign corporate penetration of the continent as if it were in their own interest. It is based on what is now a well-worn fact that Third World militaries love getting high-tech military toys that kill. It is also based on another well-worn tradition: if a world power cannot win “the hearts and minds” of the people of Third World countries that might have some economic or strategic importance, at least through military aid, the countries’ generals – a thorough corrupt and undemocratic lot – can be bought off.

De Wall and Mohammad rightly point out that as a result of SGI-, A-PREP- type programs that the United States is “in effect providing foreign tutelage to the militarization of Africa’s politics, which undermines peace and democracy throughout the continent. American diplomacy is becoming a handmaiden to Africa’s generals.” And they might have added to multi-national energy and mining interests that are tripping over each other’s feet to exploit an already over-exploited continent.

This analysis is, as the British say, “spot on.” It builds on at least two other political and human rights failures of the post-World War II period: U.S. policy in support of Latin American military dictators in the 1970s and 1980s – the Pinochets, the Argentinian, Brazilian, Paraguayan juntas, the El Salvadoran death squads of which Ronald Reagan was so fond. The other example is what is referred to as “Francafrique”, the French effort to keep the fruits of its colonial heritage in Africa alive by supporting military dictatorships in such places as Chad, Mauritania, Congo Brazzaville, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso, to say nothing of Algeria.

De Wall and Mohammed don’t stop here. They underline the dangers to development and democracy of supporting the armed forces in Africa, concerns that have not resonated in a Washington, DC fixated on competing with China, India, and European allies like France, Italy and others in that mad race to control Africa’s oil, gas and mineral wealth. Using South Sudan and Nigeria as examples, they remind NY Times readers, and Washington policymakers the degree to which U.S. military aid to Africa have disappeared down “black holes,” essentially referencing the extraordinary levels of corruption, outright government theft that has accompanied such programs where aid money is shuttled into the private accounts of ruling generals, siphoning off millions “while much of the population (of the countries involved) lives in deep poverty.” Frankly there is a whole list of other African countries that could have been cited, the recipients of military aid from the United States, France and other countries.

Rob Prince, whose teaching title has changed five times in the past 20 years, although the job is the same, is Teaching Professor at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies. In recent years, he has written extensively on North Africa. He is also the publisher of the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

Foreign Policy In Focus

Arming of Kurds Aids European Security, Says Merkel

By , September 2, 2014 3:51 am

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended her government’s taboo-breaking decision to send arms to Kurds fighting Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq, telling parliament yesterday that the group posed a major security threat to Germany and Europe.

A day after Berlin announced it would send anti-tank rockets, assault rifles and hand grenades to the Kurds, Merkel said Germany had a responsibility to intervene in the conflict to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq, citing evidence of ethnic cleansing by Islamic State fighters.

“We have the opportunity to save lives and stop the further spread of mass murder in Iraq,” Merkel said. “We have the chance to prevent terrorists from creating another safe haven for themselves. We must take this chance.”

“The far-reaching destabilisation of an entire region affects Germany and Europe,” Merkel said in a speech to the Bundestag lower house, noting that the Islamist group controlled an area in Iraq and Syria that was half the size of Germany.

“Ladies and gentlemen, when terrorists take control of a vast territory to give themselves and other fanatics a base for their acts of terror, then the danger rises for us, then our security interests are affected,” she added.

Germany, weighed down by its Nazi past, has shied away from direct involvement in military missions for much of the post-war era.

And even in those conflicts where German troops have been involved, such as Afghanistan, politicians have tended to describe the missions as humanitarian, rebuilding exercises rather than war.

Recent polls show that two in three Germans believe the government should not be sending weapons to Kurdish fighters despite reports of atrocities committed by IS insurgents.

Critics fear the arms could end up in the hands of jihadists.

Others worry that Germany, which has not experienced a major attack on its own soil, could become a target itself if it intervenes.

But Merkel noted in her speech that more than 400 Germans and hundreds of other Europeans had travelled to the region to join the fight alongside Islamic State, sometimes referred to as ISIS.

These fighters could return home at any time, she said, and therefore already represented a direct threat to Germany.

“We must fear these fighters could return one day” and mount attacks in European cities, she said. “The enormous suffering of many people cries to the heavens and our own security interests are threatened.”

“We faced a choice: not to take any risks, not to deliver (arms) and to accept the spread of terror; or to support those who are desperately but courageously fighting the barbarous terror of ISIS with limited resources,” Merkel said. “We are aware of the risks of this support, of course we considered them. But we also asked ourselves about the acute risks from ISIS if we do not deliver arms.”

Germany has already shipped humanitarian aid and defensive equipment, such as helmets and body armour, to Iraqi Kurds.

On Sunday, the government released a new list which includes 16,000 G3 and G36 assault rifles, 30 Milan anti-tank missile systems, 240 rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPGs) and 10,000 hand grenades.

As well as weapons, Germany plans to send other items such as tents, helmets and radio equipment. The first deliveries will be able to equip about 4,000 soldiers by the end of September.

The equipment, which has been taken out of German army reserves, is valued at €70mn ($ 92mn). A total of €50mn euros in humanitarian assistance has also been earmarked.

Meanwhile the Bundeswehr army plans to bring a small group of Kurdish peshmerga fighters to southern Germany for a week’s training with the equipment.

Merkel said Germany was also prepared to take in additional Iraqi refugees, without specifying a number.

The move comes three years after Germany came under sharp criticism from its allies and some critics at home for siding with China and Russia in refusing to back military intervention in Libya in a United Nations vote.

Stung by that criticism, members of Merkel’s new “grand coalition” government, including Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, spoke out earlier this year about the need for Germany to assume more responsibility in foreign affairs.

Since then, Berlin has played an active role in mediating in the Ukraine crisis and pushing for European sanctions against Russia. The decision to send arms to Iraq represents yet another step in the direction of a more active foreign policy.

“What is new is that in an acute crisis situation, German arms are being delivered in order to influence the crisis, to help a partner and to prevent danger. This hasn’t happened before,” Volker Perthes, the head of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs told Reuters. “It is clear that something is changing in Germany.”

Assyrian International News Agency

World ‘Cannot Keep Silent About the Existence of the So-called ISIS,’ Patriarchs Declare

By , September 1, 2014 10:09 pm

World ‘Cannot Keep Silent About the Existence of the So-called ISIS,’ Patriarchs Declare

Meeting at the Maronite Catholic patriarchate at Bkerke, north of Beirut, Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs convened for a special summit to address the crisis in Iraq and Syria. Later joined by the United Nations’ special coordinator in Lebanon and the ambassadors of the five permanent member-countries of the U.N. Security Council, the patriarchs called for worldwide efforts to eradicate terrorist groups.

All denounced attacks on Christians and called for greater international involvement.

“The very existence of Christians is at stake in several Arab countries – notably in Iraq, Syria and Egypt – where they have been exposed to heinous crimes, forcing them to flee,” the patriarchs said in a statement.

They highlighted the indifference of both Islamic authorities and the international community over attacks against Christians, who have been in the region for 2,000 years.

“What is painful is the absence of a stance by Islamic authorities, and the international community has not adopted a strict stance either,” the patriarchs said.

“We call for issuing a fatwa that forbids attacks against others,” they said.

“The international community cannot keep silent about the existence of the so-called ISIS,” the patriarchs said, referring to the Islamic State. “They should put an end to all extremist terrorist groups and criminalize aggression against Christians and their properties.”

The meeting was a follow-up to their first summit earlier this month, in addition to a trip by several of them to Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region.

The prelates stressed the need for cutting off the sources of terrorism. They called upon the nations of the world to deprive extremist groups of resources by compelling countries financing them to stop their support.

Solutions, they say must include “dealing with the reasons that produced the miseries in the Middle East.” Harmony must be restored between the components of these countries, they said.

“The international community must act and eradicate” the Islamic State, the patriarchs said. “This is required from the United Nations and the U.N. Security Council.

“We must stop using extremists, terrorists and mercenaries and (stop) supporting, financing and arming them,” they said.

The summit, presided by Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, and was attended by: Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II; Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni; Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham; Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan; Catholicos Aram of Cilicia, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church; Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako; a representative of the Greek Orthodox Church; and the head of the Evangelical Council, Rev. Salim Sahyouni.

Assyrian International News Agency

Further Arming the Kurds Could Prove Dangerous

By , September 1, 2014 4:27 pm

Kurdish forces, called peshmerga.Almost on a daily basis we are hear unthinkable and heartbreaking news about the cruelties that the Islamic State (ISIS) is committing in North Iraq, particularly against Assyrians and Yazidis.

The Nineveh Plain is an area north of Mosul. It was until the invasion of ISIS the last great stronghold of Assyrians. The ISIS invasion forced 200,000 Assyrians to flee the Nineveh Plain under great hardship. Demographically, the Assyrians along with the Yazidis used to make up for more the 90 percent of the population in the Nineveh plain.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 Assyrians have strived to rebuild the Iraqi society and also worked, through the federal system, to finance and maintain an Assyrian defense force.

This defense force would assume the responsibility for both military and police duties in the Nineveh plain. All attempts to form such a force have been thwarted Kurds and Arabs, both of whom have been committing targeted violence, unlawful arrests and murder of Assyrian leaders, as documented by Human Rights Watch in their report titled On Vulnerable Ground.

The Kurdish militia created a network of check-points and road blocks with the purpose of dividing the Nineveh Plain and stopping the free movement of Assyrians in their homeland.

This network of check-points has, according to Assyrian leaders, gradually evolved into an occupation of the Nineveh plain. Leaders of Assyrian parties have stated the Kurdish militiahave by threats, arrests and murders established the same rule of terror as during the regime of Saddam Hussein.

On August 7, 2014 there was a massive flight of Assyrians from the Nineveh Plain. This flight was induced by the Kurdish militia withdrawing from their positions, leaving the Assyrians and Yazidis defenseless.

The purpose of the Kurdish strategic withdrawal from the Nineveh Plain was to clear the area of the Assyrian population — creating the refugee crisis we see today.

This was to show that the Kurdish militia was not capable of withstanding heavily armed ISIS and therefore needed weaponry to protect Assyrians and other Christian minorities.

The Nineveh plain, with considerable oil reserves, has recently been declared a “disputed area” by the Kurdish authority. All this according to the Iraqi constitution and the plan is now to occupy the area.

A Nineveh Plain without Assyrians is a vital step on the way to a Kurdish annexation. There is an overwhelming risk of a Kurdish colonization of the land of the Assyrians.

The increasingly tense geopolitical situation in North Iraq has put pressure on the West to answer Kurdish pleas for weapons. These pleas have been broadcast by the media, without asking the question about what happened with the stockpile of weapons the Iraqi army left behind after retreating from the oil city of Kirkuk. These weapons were captured by the Kurdish militia after the retreat. Where have these advanced weapons gone?

This militarization of the region makes for continued instability. To deliver weapons to the Kurdish militias could prove dangerous. There is great risk that the weapons supplied by the western world, along with the seized weapons from Kirkuk, will be used by the Kurds against both the Assyrians and the central government of Baghdad.

Assyrian International News Agency

Thousands of Refugees Apply for New Passports in North Iraq

By , September 1, 2014 10:45 am

Thousands of Refugees Apply for New Passports in North Iraq

Posted 2014-09-01 07:34 GMT

Refugees stand in line in Arbel to apply for a new passport (photo: ankawa.com).(AINA) — On Saturday, August 30 the Iraqi passport office in Arbel announced it would start accepting applications to issue new passports for refugees from the Nineveh Plain and other areas who fled from ISIS. Within an hour thousands of people came to the office, which was overwhelmed and could not process most of the requests.

The new passports to be issued will be class (A) category, applicable in all parts of Iraq.

The office issued instructions and a list of documents to be submitted by the refugees wishing to obtain a passport. The documents included a letter from the Department of Immigration and Migration, official documents consisting of civil status ID card, Iraqi nationality (citizenship) certificate, financial statements, 3 personal photos with a white background, housing ID card, as well as a passport application form.

200,000 Assyrians fled their homes in the Nineveh Plain when ISIS moved to north of Mosul, as well as from Baghdede, Bartella and Karamles. 150,000 Yazidis fled from Sinjar and Zumar. ISIS stole all money and personal belongings from residents as they fled, including government identification papers.

Many refugees complained that they could not provide the documents required to obtain a new passport, as they had been confiscated by ISIS or left behind in their homes.

See Timeline of ISIS in North Iraq.

Assyrian International News Agency

Thousands of Refugees Apply for New Passports in North Iraq

By , September 1, 2014 10:45 am

Thousands of Refugees Apply for New Passports in North Iraq

Posted 2014-09-01 07:34 GMT

Refugees stand in line in Arbel to apply for a new passport (photo: ankawa.com).(AINA) — On Saturday, August 30 the Iraqi passport office in Arbel announced it would start accepting applications to issue new passports for refugees from the Nineveh Plain and other areas who fled from ISIS. Within an hour thousands of people came to the office, which was overwhelmed and could not process most of the requests.

The new passports to be issued will be class (A) category, applicable in all parts of Iraq.

The office issued instructions and a list of documents to be submitted by the refugees wishing to obtain a passport. The documents included a letter from the Department of Immigration and Migration, official documents consisting of civil status ID card, Iraqi nationality (citizenship) certificate, financial statements, 3 personal photos with a white background, housing ID card, as well as a passport application form.

200,000 Assyrians fled their homes in the Nineveh Plain when ISIS moved to north of Mosul, as well as from Baghdede, Bartella and Karamles. 150,000 Yazidis fled from Sinjar and Zumar. ISIS stole all money and personal belongings from residents as they fled, including government identification papers.

Many refugees complained that they could not provide the documents required to obtain a new passport, as they had been confiscated by ISIS or left behind in their homes.

See Timeline of ISIS in North Iraq.

Assyrian International News Agency

Assyrian Patriarch Calls for 3 Day Fast for Iraq’s Christians

By , September 1, 2014 5:03 am

Assyrian refugees in Ankawa, Iraq.(AINA) — The head of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, Patriarch Khaninia Dinkha IV, has called for a three day fast for the Assyrians of Iraq and Syria, who have become refugees in their own lands. 200,000 Assyrians have fled their homes because of ISIS and are now living in church courtyards, refugees camps, abandoned and unfinished buildings, open fields and sidewalks — in Ankawa, Arbel and Dohuk and its surrounding areas.

The Patriarch called for a special observance of the Rogation of the Ninevites. The Patriarch’s statement reads:

To all the people of our sacred church and our Assyrian nation
Please accept our prayers and blessings

As you always hear us say, “We do not have the power and we have no helper only God the Father, who every time we call on him and ask him in our prayers, he responds to us with His mercy and intercession and saves us from all difficulties and tragedies.

Today, as you can see and hear about the Middle East, all the people in that region have fallen under abnormal conditions, including our Assyrian people in Iraq and Syria.

Here we ask all of you, just as your fathers did in Nineveh, to fast the Baautha (Rogation of the Ninevites), starting next Monday, September 01, 2014, for a period of three days, and in the evening of the last day of the Baautha, corresponding to Wednesday, all the priests in all our churches will perform sanctification of Eucharist to God the Father. We ask you all to attend this Mass to pray to God the Father, and to bless and send his paternal mercy, and bestow peace and security in the whole region, so all the people can live together in love and peace.

The grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all forever and ever.

Khaninia Dinkha IV
With Grace Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East

On Wednesday, August 20 five Patriarchs from the Middle East visited Arbel in north Iraq to show support for the beleaguered Assyrian Christian community (AINA 2014-08-26) and to call attention to the cultural genocide that is being committed against it by ISIS. Patriarch Dinkha was not able to join this delegation because of very poor health.

Here is the Patriarch’s statement in Assyrian:

Assyrian International News Agency

Has Turkey Helped ISIL?

By , August 31, 2014 11:21 pm

Turkish authorities and pro-government academics have been busy in recent days, visiting world capitals in an effort to convince them that Turkey has not provided assistance to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces. This has been a nice effort, but it is far from convincing major foreign powers. Such efforts are nothing but a reflection of a state that was caught helping a brutal terror organization.

Visiting Washington, London and Brussels to protest that Turkey has never helped ISIL is a lie that even Turks are not buying. Beyond the evidence collected by foreign intelligence agencies, there is ample proof that has been published by international media outlets.

While the dirty relationship between Turkey and ISIL is clear, Turkish authorities think that Western observers might be stupid enough to believe their tall tales.

If there was no hard evidence concerning Turkey’s dark relations with ISIL-like terrorist organizations, the court testimony of the drivers who were carrying ammunition to Syria is convincing enough to make a case that Turkey is helping al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists in Syria.

For example, truck driver L.K., who was arrested carrying 9,000 mortar rounds, testified in Adana in 2013 saying, “I carried similar loads more than once, unloading them at a gendarmerie station on the border. The load did not belong to the Turkish Armed Forces.” The court in Adana determined that the direction which the truck drivers reported that their loads were being taken to was that of an al-Qaeda camp.

When the police and gendarmerie stopped the trucks full of ammunition at the Reyhanl? border, Turkish authorities claimed that the trucks were carrying aid to Turkmens in Syria. It is ridiculous for any reasonable person to believe that these trucks were carrying aid to Turkmens.

This was an obvious lie for two simple reasons: Turkmens in Syria live right across the border from the Turkish town of Yaylada??, which is located at the very southern corner of Hatay province. However, the trucks were stopped at the Cilvegozu Gate, which is at the top of Hatay province. The distance between Cilvegozu and Yayladag? is 100 miles.

More importantly, extremist al-Qaeda-affiliated groups were controlling the Syrian side of the Cilvegozu gate, Bab-Al-Hawa at that time. ISIL forces were controlling the highways on the Syrian side in 2013, when the trucks were stopped.

Pro-government academics and analysts who want us — and the world community — to believe that Turkey has not helped al-Qaeda affiliated groups want us to believe that those trucks full of ammunition were carrying aid — even military aid — to Turkmens, not through Turkish territory, but through Syrian territory controlled by al-Qaeda and ISIL forces.

Dealing with terrorists and helping terrorism is like a boomerang; sooner or later it will come back on those who engage in it. This was Turkey’s argument back in 1990, telling the countries of Europe that helping the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) would hurt them in the long run, which was true.

Yet, the “new Turkey,” as pro-government analysts love to say, has forgotten its own argument in helping al-Qaeda-affiliated terror groups to topple the Assad regime. Not surprisingly, the boomerang has come back to strike Turkey quite severely. Now 49 Turkish diplomatic staff and dependents are being held captive by ISIL and Turkey has not even lifted a finger to rescue them thus far.

There is little doubt that government authorities violated international law pursuing aggressive policies to topple the Assad regime. If there is a price to be paid, it should not be Turkey; rather, it should be those who made such decisions and played such dangerous games.

Unfortunately, Turkey’s contribution is one of the reasons ISIL wields so much power today. This is not only limited to Turkey’s passive support by turning a blind eye to ISIL fighters using Turkish territory to cross into Syria, but it is also due to these shadowy arms transfers from Turkey to Syria. ISIL officials are not even shy about confessing that they carried their weapons through Turkey on their way to jihad.

Assyrian International News Agency