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U.S. Delivers More Aid to Iraq Refugees, More Airstrikes to ISIS

By , August 20, 2014 1:43 pm

U.S. Delivers More Aid to Iraq Refugees, More Airstrikes to ISIS

(CNN) — The United States resumed airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq Wednesday, a day after the jihadist militants released a video showing the beheading of an American journalist.

U.S. forces carried out 14 airstrikes on Wednesday, destroying or damaging six ISIS humvees, two armored trucks and other targets, the Defense Department said.

The airstrikes were in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam, which Kurdish forces recently recaptured from ISIS with support of U.S. air power.

In the same video that shows the beheading of journalist James Foley, a second American, believed to be journalist Steven Sotloff, appears.

Whether Sotloff lives or dies, the executioner says on the video, depends on what Obama does next.

Humanitarian operation under way

A plane carrying the first load of humanitarian aid as part of a multiday operation to help hundreds of thousands of displaced people in northern Iraq has landed in Irbil, the U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday.

It’s one of the largest aid pushes the agency has ever undertaken. And it’s much needed. Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes as ISIS militants have advanced.

The first Boeing 747 to land carried 100 tons of aid, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said. Three more flights will follow from Jordan into Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital, with the last on Saturday.

The airlift will be bolstered by deliveries made by road and sea over the next 10 days, with 175 trucks ferrying cargo from warehouses in Turkey, Jordan and Iran.

The shipments include thousands of tents, plastic sheets, kitchen sets and jerrycans, destined for families who fled with little more than the clothes on their back.

In total, the UNHCR intends to bring 2,410 tons of aid into northern Iraq between now and the start of September.

Many have been sleeping rough where they can, finding shelter in schools, parks or unfinished buildings, the UNHCR said. The agency is working to set up a dozen or more tent cities in Dohuk and Irbil governorates where some 140,000 people can be housed.

“This is a massive logistics operation to bring in relief supplies by air, land and sea to help the hundreds of thousands of desperate people who have fled suddenly with nothing but their lives, and are now struggling to survive in harsh conditions,” said U.N. High Commissioner Antonio Guterres.

“It’s the largest single aid push we have mounted in more than a decade.”

The ISIS militants, who are Sunni Muslim extremists, have carried out brutal attacks on towns and villages as they’ve advanced across Iraq, targeting Iraq’s Christians, minority sects such as the Yazidis, centered in the northern Sinjar area, and Shia Muslims.

The UNHCR estimates that 1.2 million Iraqis have been forced from their homes so far this year, including more than a half-million in the western Anbar province and a similar number in northern Iraq.

Executions, beheadings

As the massive aid operation swings into gear, fierce fighting continues between the militants and Kurdish forces for control of northern Iraq.

On Monday, U.S. airstrikes helped Kurdish and Iraqi forces take control of the key Mosul Dam, fighting back the militants who had seized it.

The stakes were huge for the millions of Iraqis who live downstream from the dam, the largest in the country, amid fears that if it were breached floods would have threatened lives in Mosul and downriver in Baghdad.

Now that the dam is cleared of ISIS militants, Iraqi forces are moving to grow their area of control, the Pentagon said.

The ISIS militants have carried out numerous executions, including beheadings, as part of its effort to establish an Islamic caliphate that stretches from Syria into Iraq. In many cases, ISIS — which refers to itself as the Islamic State — has videotaped the executions and posted them online.

Assyrian International News Agency

Neither Obama Nor Congress Eager for Vote on Iraq

By , August 20, 2014 3:32 am

Neither Obama Nor Congress Eager for Vote on Iraq
By: Jason Ditz on: 20.08.2014 [06:32 ] (43 reads)

Neither Obama Nor Congress Eager for Vote on Iraq
Obama Loathe to Ask, Congress Won’t Press Matter

by Jason Ditz, August 19, 2014

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in the lead up to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq became a huge political issue in the years to come, with Congressmen and Senators defined to a great extent by whether they voted for the war or against it. They’re not making that mistake again.

Not the mistake of starting a big war in Iraq, that’s totally happening. Rather, Congress is eager to avoid a vote that could come back to haunt them when the new war inevitably turns sour and stops being the trendy thing for officials to support.

It was less than a month ago, incredibly, that the House passed a resolution saying they opposed any troops being sent to Iraq without Congressional authorization. That came in the wake of polls showing overwhelming opposition for a new Iraq War, but weeks before President Obama unveiled his “humanitarian intervention.”

Congressmen have, virtually without exception, been cheering the escalation of the new Iraq War ever since, and the primary dividing line is between the pro-war and really pro-war sides, with the usual suspects pushing for a dramatic escalation above and beyond what’s already been announced.

President Obama has long made clear his preference not to seek Congressional authorizations, arguing he can unilaterally launch such wars as he sees fit and will “keep Congress informed” of his plans, more or less.

Congress pushed back a bit on Libya, though a vote never took place, and the US invasion of Syria, announced by Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, was actually stopped by Congressional opposition. This time, they’d just as soon not be asked.

It’s not that a no vote is even a serious possibility, of course. Anything more than a handful of no votes in the House would be shocking. Instead, Congress wants to avoid messy conversations with constituents about what they did when the new Iraq War was launched, preferring to leave the whole thing up to the administration. (en) RSS feed for articles and news

Lebanese FM Visits Assyrian Leaders in North Iraq

By , August 19, 2014 8:37 pm

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Gibran Basil (center) at a press conference after meeting with Assyrian officials in Ankawa, Iraq (photo: — Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Gibran Basil, met with Assyrian leaders in North Iraq yesterday during a one day visit. The meeting was held at the headquarters of the Assyrian Democratic Movement in Ankawa, north of Arbel. Ankawa, an Assyrian Christian town, has received a massive influx of 70,000 Assyrian refugees who fled in fear of ISIS from their villages in the Nineveh Plain.

Mr. Basil came to Iraq to look closely at the situation of the Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) who have been displaced from their areas in the Nineveh Plain after the withdrawal of the Kurdish forces and the occupation by ISIS, which forced 200,000 Assyrians to flee their homes and villages to Arbel and Dohuk.

The Foreign Minister was briefed on the political demands of the Assyrians, specifically on the need to liberate the Nineveh Plain area quickly to enable the refugees to return to their homes and the establishment of a safe haven under international protection during the transition phase, followed by the establishment of regular troops composed of Assyrians to enable them to participate in the protection of their homes and villages.

Mr. Basil said that Lebanon is prepared to support the Christian presence in Iraq and to bring the issue to the attention of of the international community. He stressed the need to focus on the demands and urged citizens to stay in their country and hold on to the land because emigration is not a solution. He also said solutions stem from the people’s willingness to adhere to their lands and their rights and not to abandon them under any circumstances.

After the meeting with the Assyrian leaders, Mr. Basil issued the following statement in a press conference:

“We are here today not in order to weep with displaced people, we’re not a religion of scars and tears, but the religion of the resurrection and life, and so we say we are staying, alive, carrying the message, we are not just threatened; the whole world is threatened, with our departure from this land no human will be secure on this earth and in this world; this is an existential danger for all religions; all the people are threatened, that is why our demands remain first and foremost that we stay; we demand to remain and persist; we will stay on this land, and we will prove we will go back to our villages.

International protection is the obligation and duty of the international community and not a demand from the elements Iraqi society, and we believe that the people of the region were trapped between the center [central government] and the region [KRG] and paid the price for neglect and abandonment, and so they are demanding secured supplies that enables them to hold their positions, because people need a means of survival, and not to migrate. And I say to them we welcome them in Lebanon as tourists and visitors, but their land is here, and the solution is not to receive a small number of the thousandth that are displaced. These international sins must be corrected by international policy for the protection of the diversity of all components of the Iraqi society.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Gibran Basil (center left) meeting with Assyrian officials in Ankawa, Iraq (photo:

Assyrian International News Agency

Iraq: ISIS Losing Ground in Iraq, Iraqi and Kurdish forces score victories of the ISIS

By , August 19, 2014 9:51 am

Please any Questions: send to I will get to your questions as soon as possible by personal e-mail, blog post or audio “If you Knew you could not fail, what would you try today?” Philippians 4:13

Iraq: ISIS Losing Ground in Iraq, Iraqi and Kurdish forces score victories of the ISIS

By , August 19, 2014 9:51 am

Please any Questions: send to I will get to your questions as soon as possible by personal e-mail, blog post or audio “If you Knew you could not fail, what would you try today?” Philippians 4:13

Iraq: Sunni Leaders stated wanting to Join new Government under Conditions

By , August 19, 2014 4:09 am

Please any Questions: send to I will get to your questions as soon as possible by personal e-mail, blog post or audio “If you Knew you could not fail, what would you try today?” Philippians 4:13

International Scholars Issue Joint Statement on ISIS in Iraq

By , August 19, 2014 3:31 am

(AINA) — The following statement was issued by a group of international scholars. It addresses the the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and its genocide campaign against Assyrians, Yazidis and other non-Muslim minorities in Iraq.

99 years ago this year, a genocide was perpetrated upon the Christians of the Middle East, including the Aramaic-speaking Assyrians, Chaldeans and Aramaeans (Suryoye). Now in the 21st century we see history repeating itself. Christian towns and villages, such as Qaraqosh, Telkepe and Alqosh, which had largely escaped the violence of recent decades, are now emptied of their populations. These towns, with their ancient monasteries, are of huge historical and cultural significance. In this area, furthermore, Aramaic has been spoken uninterrupted for thousands of years.

Wave upon wave of refugees of all communities, amounting to hundreds of thousands of people, are now crowded into the small Kurdish region, itself gravely threatened by ISIS. People are sleeping in parks and in the streets. Meanwhile tens of thousands of Yazidis have been in the mountains without shelter or water. Urgent humanitarian aid is needed, but longer term the refugees cannot stay in Erbil.

As scholars engaged in the study of their language and cultural heritage, we call upon the governments of the European Union, the United States, and the wider international community to do everything in their power to allow the refugees back to their homes in the plain of Mosul and to institute an internationally protected safe haven in northern Iraq of the kind that, twenty years ago, protected the Kurds from genocide and which has enabled this region up till now to enjoy a stability and prosperity that we would wish for all Iraqis.

Dr Eleanor Coghill
University of Konstanz
Dr Alessandro Mengozzi
University of Turin
Professor Geoffrey Khan
University of Cambridge
Profesor Dr Werner Arnold
University of Heidelberg
University Professor Dr Shabo Talay
Free University of Berlin
Professor Yona Sabar
University of California, Los Angeles
Professor Dr Heleen Murre-van den Berg
Leiden University of Leiden
Professor Fabrizio Pennacchietti
University of Turin
Professor Dr Otto Jastrow
Tallinn University
Professor Steven Fassberg
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Professor Hezy Mutzafi
Tel Aviv University
Dr Samuel Ethan Fox
University of Chicago
Dr Sergey Loesov
Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow
Dr Pablo Kirtchuk
Institut National de Langues et Civilisations Orientales, Paris
Dr Maciej Tomal
Jagiellonian University, Krakow
Dr George Anton Kiraz
Rutgers University, New Jersey
Nineb Lamassu
University of Cambridge
Zeki Bilgic
University of Konstanz
Georges Toro
University of Konstanz
Dr Charles G. Häberl
Rutgers University, New Jersey
Dr Roberta Borghero
University of Cambridge
Dr Michael Waltisberg
University of Marburg
Dr Alinda Damsma
Leo Baeck College, London
Dr Na’ama Pat-El
University of Texas at Austin
Dr Johanna Rubba
Cal Poly State University, California
Rev Kristine Jensen
Aramaic Bible Translation, Peoria, Arizona
Dr Lidia Napiorkowska
University of Cambridge
Kathrin Göransson
University of Cambridge
Ariel Gutman
University of Konstanz
Michael Wingert
University of California, Los Angeles
Timothy Hogue
University of California, Los Angeles
Kristine Mole
University of Cambridge
Dr Jasmin Sinha
Aubange, Belgium
Fabio Gasparini
University of Tutin
Demsin Lachin
Aramaic Bible Translation, Turlock, California
Dr Margaretha Folmer
Leiden University
Professor Dr Estiphan Panoussi
University of Gothenburg
Professor Emeritus Olga Kapeliuk
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Dr Jean Sibille
University of Toulouse
Joseph Alichoran
Institut National de Langues et Civilisations Orientales, Paris
Professor Eran Cohen
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Robin Bet Shmuel
Oriental Cultural Centre, Duhok, Iraq
Dr Alexey Lyavdansky
Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow
Martin Luther Chan
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr M. David Hanna
Los Angeles
Dr Laura Kalin
University of Connecticut
Illan Gonen
University of Cambridge
Dr Francesco Zanella
University of Bonn
D. Robert Paulissian
Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies

See Timeline of ISIS in North Iraq.

Assyrian International News Agency

Pope Endorses Use of Force in Iraq to Protect Minorities

By , August 18, 2014 9:49 pm

(AP) — Pope Francis on Monday endorsed the use of force to stop Islamic militants from attacking religious minorities in Iraq but said the international community — and not just one country — should decide how to intervene.

Francis also said he and his advisers were considering whether he might go to northern Iraq himself to show solidarity with persecuted Christians. But he said he was holding off for now on a decision.

In other comments to journalists returning from South Korea, Francis confirmed he hoped to travel to the United States in September 2015 for a possible three-city tour: to attend a family rally in Philadelphia and to address Congress in Washington and the United Nations in New York. He said a Mexico stop on that trip was possible but not decided yet. He also said he might make one-day visit to Spain next year.

On Iraq, Francis was asked if he approved of the unilateral U.S. airstrikes on militants of the Islamic State who have captured swaths of northern and western Iraq and northeastern Syria and have forced minority Christians and others to either convert to Islam or flee their homes.

“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” Francis said. “I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.”

But, he said, in history, such “excuses” to stop an unjust aggression have been used by world powers to justify a “war of conquest” in which an entire people have been taken over.

“One nation alone cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor,” he said, apparently referring to the United States. “After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It’s there that you must discuss ‘Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?’ Just this. Nothing more.”

His comments were significant because the Vatican has vehemently opposed any military intervention in recent years, with St. John Paul II actively trying to head off the Iraq war and Francis himself staging a global prayer and fast for peace when the U.S. was threatening airstrikes on Syria last year.

But the Vatican has been increasingly showing support for military intervention in Iraq, given that Christians are being directly targeted because of their faith and that Christian communities which have existed for 2,000 years have been emptied as a result of the extremists’ onslaught.

The U.S. began launching airstrikes against Islamic State fighters on Aug. 8, allowing Kurdish forces to fend off an advance on their regional capital of Irbil and to help tens of thousands of religious minorities escape.

Church teaching allows for “just wars,” when military force can be justified under certain circumstances. And in recent days, a few Vatican officials have edged increasingly toward acknowledging the Iraq situation fits the bill.

When the Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq, Monsignor Giorgio Lingua, was asked about the U.S. airstrikes, he told Vatican Radio that it was unfortunate that the situation had gotten to this point “but it’s good when you’re able to at the very least remove weapons from these people who have no scruples.”

The Vatican’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, went further, saying “Maybe military action is necessary at this moment.”

Francis sent a personal envoy, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, to northern Iraq last week with an undisclosed amount of money to help people in flight and show the pope’s solidarity with those forced to flee their homes.

Assyrian International News Agency

Fighting the ‘Convert or Die’ Caliphate in Iraq

By , August 18, 2014 4:07 pm

Assyrian refugees in Ankawa, Iraq.All over the world, millions of innocent people are facing persecution, imprisonment, and even death because of their religious beliefs.

In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory, according to the State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. And the trend in 2014 is only getting worse.

But perhaps nowhere has intolerance, ruthlessness, and evil combined to destroy people of faith more than it has in Iraq, where the Islamic State is engaged in a systemic effort to wipe out the Christian presence there, along with all other religious minorities. The Islamic State, an extreme Sunni militant group that emerged from al-Qaeda, has rampaged across Iraq, ridding towns of Christians and other religious minorities, just as it did in parts of Syria over the last year, persecuting that country’s Christians. It has used brutal tactics such as beheadings, rapes, forced conversions, and forced marriages of any non-Sunnis in its path.

The United States intervened militarily to assist 40,000 Iraqi Yazidis — a religion that fuses Christianity, Islam, and ancient Zoroastrianism — who were literally stuck on a mountaintop. Until U.S. and Kurdish military operations helped clear a path to safety, their options were to stay and die of thirst, or relocate and be massacred by the Islamic State militants waiting at the base of the mountain.

The U.S. government took the correct action in halting the genocidal campaign of the Islamic State by using our military to perform limited air strikes against their positions that were threatening Mount Sinjar and by conducting humanitarian airdrops to the Yazidis who were facing death from lack of water. Although the Obama administration has indicated that the mission has been accomplished on Mount Sinjar, there are reports that thousands of Yazidis still remain in peril on the mountain, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who need of humanitarian assistance in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Although the Mount Sinjar crisis further revealed to the world the sheer brutality of the Islamic State, for months these terrorists have been occupying and destroying churches across Iraq, pulling down crosses, destroying religious documents and holy sites, and forcing Christians to convert or face death. They have seized bridges, dams, and other infrastructure that Christian towns and communities rely on for survival. Christians have been the primary target in Iraq, raising the stakes and the need for U.S. leadership. Christians have inhabited Iraq and Syria for 2,000 years; but if the Islamic State has its way with its “convert or die” tactics, not a single Christian will be left.

But it is important not to lose sight of the fact that it is not just the fate of Christians and other religious minorities at stake in Iraq and Syria. Allowing the Islamic State and its jihadist leaders to maintain their newly established caliphate in the heart of the Middle East is a national-security threat to the United States and to our allies in the region.

We need to be doing much more to address this challenge, including air strikes against Islamic State targets and increased lethal assistance to the Kurds and Iraq’s central government. The Kurds in particular are hosting more than a million refugees from other parts of Iraq and Syria who have fled their villages as the jihadists have advanced. They are short on funds and resources because of ongoing disputes with the government in Baghdad, and we need to be more responsive to their requests for direct financial and military aid.

In Iraq and around the world, protecting religious freedom must be a top priority of our foreign-policy agenda. One need look no further than the situation we face in Iraq and Syria today to realize that, if left unchecked, the same forces that breed anti-religious extremism will eventually affect our security here at home.

Marco Rubio represents Florida in the U.S. Senate and is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Select Intelligence Committee.

Assyrian International News Agency

US Plans New Iraq Strategy

By , August 18, 2014 3:57 pm

US Plans New Iraq Strategy

By John Lee.

The United States is now far more open to Iraqi requests for increased military support to fight ISIS, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Previously, initiatives to sell arms and rapidly transfer foreign military sales such as F-16s and Hellfire missiles have been slowed by concerns in Congress regarding Nouri-al Maliki’s authoritarian style of leadership.

Now that Haider al-Abadi is PM–a development said to have involved months of behind the scenes US diplomacy–the US is considering new approaches to help Iraq target ISIS, including the possibility of bombing raids closer to Baghdad. Arms transfers have already accelerated.

To date, US policy has been to give the Iraqi government limited arms transfers and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) support, in addition to training for Iraqi Special Forces in Jordan. Recently, US military involvement has used jets and drones to support Kurdish forces.

New US military strategy, involving hundreds of military advisers, marks a step change in US support for Baghdad. The question now is whether the US will see political progress in Iraq as the green light to launch air strikes in support of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) near Baghdad.

US officials have said that there is a reluctance to extend military force beyond limited strikes and assistance. A key red line for ISIS to date has been any threat to US citizens and personnel in Erbil and Baghdad. US officials said “many options” are being explored.

The situation could change quickly if ISIS make gains towards Baghdad airport, a key transit point for thousands of US personnel.

(Source: WSJ)

Iraq Business News