ASIA/IRAQ - US set to arm "Christian" anti-extremist militias in Iraq? The Chaldean Patriarch: "It is a very bad idea"

Thursday, 19 May 2016 international politics

Baghdad (Agenzia Fides) - Christian anti-Islamic State forces in Iraq are set to benefit from a defence spending bill headed for authorisation by the US Congress and Senate, justifying this action as part of the fight against the self-proclaimed jihadist "Islamic State" (Daesh) and as a concrete result of the statement with which the same US Congress has described the violence suffered by Christians on behalf of militants of Daesh as "genocide".
A bill, which US lawmakers will be called upon to rule, aims to include, in the US defense budget, the financing and distribution of weapons to self-styled "Christian militias" in the anti-jihadist fight. A parliamentary measure had previously allocated funds for local security forces in the Nineveh Plain. The new bill makes specific reference to "Christian militias" as privileged recipients of the US logistical and military support.
"The committee believes that the United States should support appropriately vetted, effective indigenous groups such as Iraqi Christian militias, with a national security mission".
The initiative - stresses US media such as Christian Today - comes in the wake of the ruling with which the US lawmakers unanimously defined the way Daesh treated Christians and other minorities as "genocide". Steve Oshana, executive director of "A Demand for Action" (one of the lobbies that move in the US political landscape under the banner of "Christian protection"), called this initiative "a huge step forward": "This is significant because Christian forces in Iraq and Syria have spent the past 18 months building capacity, and in Syria one group has already received support from the US".
Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, however, believes that giving weapons to self-styled 'Christian' militias "is a bad idea. It makes us understand what the statement on Genocide was aiming at". According to the Primate of the Chaldean Church, "there are no 'Christian militias', but only politicized groups and simple people who are in desperate need of a salary. The remaining Christians in Iraq are only the poor and those belonging to the middle class, and among them, there are 100 thousand displaced people".
A few days ago, many Christian refugees were forced to sign a "Pledge of Allegiance" to the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan and its President Masud Barzani (see Fides 13/05/2016). "Now" the Patriarch explains to Fides, "Sunni Arabs want to create an autonomous region in Mosul with the support of Turkey, while the Kurds want to accentuate the process of independence of Kurdistan. Another Christian political group is supported by the central government in Baghdad. It is a total mess! Everyone wants to exploit Christians of Nineveh Plain for their ambitions and political interests. It is an area with different ethnic groups and religious communities, it is the dividing area between the region dominated by the Kurds and the region dominated by Sunni Arabs. I am afraid that all these talks will turn Nineveh Plain into a continuing conflict region, and in this case, no Christian will return to their homes. Christians, if they want to have a future - added the Patriarch - must integrate themselves with the institutions and follow the legitimate authorities that govern the place where they live. And if the US really want to defeat Daesh, they have to support the regular armies that are part of the central government and the autonomous Kurdistan government, instead of creating sectarian militias". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 19/05/2016)

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