Category Archives: Iraq

IRAQ: Urgent need for regional political solutions

Marie Dennisby Marie Dennis
Pax Christi International Co-President

As the progression of violence in already-violent Iraq commanded the attention of the world, Pope Francis joined the call to prayer and expressed his hope for “security and peace and a future of reconciliation and justice where all Iraqis, whatever their religious affiliation, will be able together to build up their country, making a model of coexistence.” IraqCrisis-smallChaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, who lives in Baghdad, called for a day of “fasting and prayer for the restoration of security and stability in Iraq,” and insisted that “the best solution to all these problems is the creation of a government of national unity” to strengthen “the rule of law.”

Given the history and consequences of U.S. interventions in Iraq, U.S. faith communities and peace groups spoke out quickly and clearly:

Pax Christi USA wrote: “In response to the recent unrest in Iraq and the possibility of the crisis continuing to spread, Pax Christi USA is unequivocal in its assertion that U.S. military intervention will not achieve the peace and stability that the people of Iraq deserve. A military solution—whether it include air strikes or ground troops or an increase in the flow of weapons into Iraq—will only serve to increase the suffering of the Iraqi people, not alleviate it. Furthermore, military intervention increases the risk of widening the conflict in the region. [We call] for a fully inclusive international diplomatic process to address this crisis. The crisis … is regional in nature and requires a multi-lateral diplomatic response initiated by the United Nations and including regional authorities like the Arab League. The hope for a peaceful solution lies in an effort which addresses the political concerns of all the major factions in the region. We believe that the unfolding tragedy in Iraq is a direct, if unintended, consequence of the U.S. invasion and occupation of that country…”

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, IA, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote in a letter to U.S. National Security Advisor Ambassador Susan E. Rice, “Our nation bears a special responsibility toward the people of Iraq. The U.S.-led invasion and occupation unleashed both sectarian conflicts and extremism in Iraq, two tragic unintended consequences that have profound and continuing repercussions for the people of Iraq … It is appropriate that the administration is urging political leaders in Iraq to form an inclusive government. … It is critical that all ethnic and religious groups are represented at the table of governance so that the common good of all is served. Extremists have been exploiting the divisions born of exclusion and the weakening of the rule of law. In addition to seeking a political solution in Iraq, it is critical to do so in Syria. The U.S. should work with the international community … and all responsible parties in Syria … to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria.”…

Click here to read the entire article.

IRAQ: Engage the UN to counter the ISIL terrorist threat

by David Cortwright

The violent extremists of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have seized major cities and swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq and are seeking to create a caliphate over the entire Muslim world. The group poses a threat not only to the region but to global security. The battle-hardened forces of ISIL include hundreds of fighters from Europe and Chechnya and even some from the United States. Some of these fighters will likely take their warped ideology and violent skills with them when they return home.

ISIL has fought across two countries in its quest for an Islamic state.

ISIL has fought across two countries in its quest for an Islamic state.

Why then, in the face of this clear and present danger to global security, has the United States not joined with other countries in bringing this matter to the UN Security Council? Isn’t that why the UN was created, to mobilize cooperative action in response to international security threats? The failure to work through the UN diminishes the prospects for building an effective international coalition against ISIL. It reduces the repertroire of potential responses to the crisis and contributes to the atrophy of the UN and of multilateralism in general.

Thirteen years ago, in response to the 9/11 attacks, the response was very different. The Security Council met immediately and adopted a wide range of measures to harness international action against al-Qaeda. Most significant was Security Council Resolution 1373, which required every country to freeze the financial assets of al-Qaeda terrorists and their supporters, deny them travel or safe haven, prevent terrorist recruitment and weapons supply, and cooperate with other countries in information sharing and criminal prosecution. In its response to 9/11, the Council also expanded existing sanctions on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, created new bodies to monitor and assist compliance with counterterrorism measures, and established a wide range of counterterrorism programs that have helped, along with U.S. military pressures, to diminish the global threat from al-Qaeda…

Click here to read this entire article.

IRAQ: Patriarch Sako – “Iraq won’t remain a single state”

from Zenit

The patriarch spoke with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need on June 28. The patriarch spoke from Ankawa, near Erbil, the Kurdish capital in Iraq, where the Chaldean bishops had been for a synod to discuss the crisis in their country.

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako

Q: Have you any hope that Iraq can remain a single state?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: No. Perhaps a symbolic unit and the name of Iraq will continue to exist. But de facto there will be three independent zones with their own budgets and armies.

Q: What are the consequences of the disintegration of the state for Christians in Iraq?

Patriarch Sako: That is the question. To be honest we bishops are somewhat at a loss at the present time. The future may lie in Kurdistan. Many Christians are already living there after all. But there are also many who live in Baghdad, and there are also some in Basra in the Shiite south. We must wait and see how things develop.

Q: On Friday the synod of the Chaldean Church in Erbil came to an end. Did you decide on any measures in view of the crisis of Christian refugees from areas occupied by ISIS or otherwise under threat from them?

Patriarch Sako: We have been closely concerned with this. We also assigned a commission of five bishops from the areas affected whose task is to ensure initial aid for the refugees. The American and French consuls were here to help us and to develop a vision. But everything is still in a state of flux. I and other bishops are of the opinion that the situation will deteriorate. At present there are three fragments of Iraq, a Sunni one, a Kurdish one and a Shiite one. The Kurds already enjoy autonomy anyway. The Shiites do as well in a sense. Now the Sunnis are following suit. Iraq will therefore be divided up. If this is the case it will be better to sit down together and find a consensus in order to prevent further fighting and loss of human life.

Q: Is this the darkest hour for Iraqi Christianity?

Patriarch Sako: It is the darkest for everybody. There is no persecution of the Christians. Many more Muslims have fled from Mosul and the surrounding area. But what worries us greatly is the fact that the exodus of Christians from Iraq will increase. When I was in Turkey recently ten Christian families from Mosul arrived. And in the space of only one week 20 families left Alqosh, a completely Christian town not far from Mosul. This is very serious. We are losing our community. If Christian life in Iraq comes to an end, this will be a hiatus in our history. Our identity is threatened.

Q: Should western countries give Iraqi Christians a visa or not?

Patriarch Sako: The tragedy is that the families are split up. Many are already in the west. The children are constantly asking their parents why they are still there and not following them. You can’t stop this trend. It’s impossible.

Q: So there’s no hope?

Patriarch Sako: Perhaps the older ones will return when the situation has stabilized. But the young ones will stay outside the country. In ten years there will perhaps be 50,000 Christians left. Prior to 2003 this figure was about 1.2 million. Within ten years we have shrunk to a community of perhaps four to five hundred thousand faithful. We don’t have exact figures.

Q: What can we Christians in the west do?

Patriarch Sako: The Christians in the West are very weak. There are good Christians there who support us with their prayers and in material terms. But their influence is slight. On the whole the West is doing nothing at all. We are very disappointed. They are just uninvolved observers. They find football more interesting than the situation here or in Syria. Western policy only pursues economic interests. The international community should put pressure on Iraqi politicians to make them find a political solution and form a government of national unity.

Q: Can you, as someone who is not directly involved, play a mediatory role in the present situation? When you were Archbishop for the town of Kirkuk, which was the subject of contention between the Arabs and the Kurds, your house was open to all parties.

Patriarch Sako: I have continued with this in Baghdad. All the important decision-makers are based there. For example, I visited the president of the Parliament. But the time for this is now past. The divisions are worse than ever. How should I get to Fallujah in the Sunni Anbar Province? The problem is that the Sunnis do not have a real leader in Baghdad who can speak for them.

Q: Do you think that the majority of Arab Sunnis support ISIS?

Patriarch Sako: Yes. Quite clearly. They do not necessarily share their ideology. But they support the political goal of regime change and the foundation of their own state. ISIS intends to found an Islamic state with oil wells in order to islamicize the world.

Q: Is this also a danger for the West?

Patriarch Sako: I think this is a danger for all.

Q: There are calls for American intervention to stop the advance of ISIS. What do you think?

Patriarch Sako: No. I don’t view it like that. The Americans have been here and they made a lot of mistakes. The current situation is their fault. Why replace a regime by something even worse? This is what happened after 2003. The Americans deposed a dictator. But under Saddam Hussein at least we had security and work. And what do we have now? Confusion, anarchy and chaos. The same thing has happened in Libya and Syria. If you want to change the situation here you have to educate the people in the schools, media and mosques in matters of freedom, democracy and the construction of their own country. It is impossible to install a democracy on the Western pattern here. Under the old regime prior to 2003 we had no denominational problems. We were all Iraqis. Now we talk about Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Arabs and Kurds.

Q: But wasn’t it only like that because Saddam held the different groups together with an iron fist?

Patriarch Sako: Perhaps in the present context we need in the Middle East a strong leader who is at the same time just and not only looking out for his family or tribe.

Q: This strong leader isn’t there at the moment. But do you still see a chance of stopping the disintegration of Iraq and finding a political solution?

Patriarch Sako: Such a possibility will still exist if the west and our neighbors such as Iran, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia want it to.

IRAQ: Take action now to prevent U.S. bombing in Iraq!

from Physicians for Social Responsibility

IraqCrisis-smallThe terrible violence in Iraq has prompted calls for U.S. military intervention there, yet again. This could happen very soon, and President Obama is weighing the pros and cons. Our best tool to stop this is to urge the president to come to Congress for authorization before using military force.

Urging the president to come to Congress for authorization was essential to preventing the U.S. from going to war in Syria last year, when 192 members of the House said he had to come to Congress for authorization before using military force. The president did go to Congress, and when he couldn’t get authorization for force, he chose diplomacy instead. We have the same opportunity now.

Help stop the rush to war; click here to email your U.S. Representative today!

Representatives Scott Rigell (Republican, VA-2nd) and Barbara Lee (Democrat, California-13th) are circulating a bipartisan sign-on letter in Congress RIGHT NOW, calling on the president to respect the Constitutional requirement to seek Congressional authorization before using military force. If we can get enough Members of Congress to sign onto the Rigell-Lee letter, we can keep American bombs from falling yet again over Iraq.

IRAQ: Iraq – Unintended consequences and lessons for U.S. policy

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moinesby Bishop Richard E. Pates

In March 2013, I visited Iraq to attend the installation of Monsignor Louis Sako as the new Chaldean Catholic Patriarch. During that visit, I had a brief, yet startling, introduction to the country in the aftermath of dictatorship, invasion, occupation and civil war. The comments of my Iraqi interlocutors are engraved in my memory. Many insisted “the Americans ruined Iraq” and “the Americans ruined the church.”

The tragedy of Iraq today could have been predicted given U.S. policy decisions in 2003. Many warned that the invasion would lead not only to the death and destruction inevitable in war, but to wider economic, political and social tragedies for Iraq, the United States and the global community. The Holy See and U.S. bishops were prominent among those voices, basing their concerns on the church’s moral teaching on war, peace and international relations.

Iraqi Shiite fighters parade with weapons and national flags on June 21, 2014 in the capital, Baghdad. Shiite fighters paraded in Baghdad and south Iraq in a dramatic show of force aimed at Sunni militants who overran swathes of territory in a crisis threatening to rip the country apart.  AFP PHOTO

Iraqi Shiite fighters parade with weapons and national flags on June 21, 2014 in the capital, Baghdad. AFP PHOTO

This review of the church’s engagement with U.S. policy in Iraq is meant to help ensure that the moral obligations and limits on our nation’s conduct in the world will not again be ignored. In the future, we must ensure that our foreign policy is morally sound, cognizant of the consequences of U.S. action and thus better able to advance security, stability and a just peace.

Before March 2003, certainly, Iraq was a country in crisis. Its government was a threat to its own people and its neighbors. While decrying the harmful impact of U.N. economic sanctions on innocent Iraqis, the bishops wrote in November 1998: “The Iraqi government has a duty to stop its internal repression, to end its threats to peace, to abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and to respect the legitimate role of the United Nations in ensuring that it does so.”…

Read the entire article in America by clicking here.

IRAQ: LCWR calls upon people to join Iraqi Sisters in prayer today

from LCWR

Iraqi sisters look over the damage at a church in northern Iraq.

Iraqi sisters look over the damage at a church in northern Iraq.

Silver Spring, MD–Facing imminent danger, the leader of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Sienna in Mosul, Iraq has called her sisters throughout Iraq to a time of intense prayer and retreat to beg God for the protection of the Iraqi people, especially the minority Christian community.

The Iraqi Christian community has steadily declined from approximately 1.3 million in 2003 to less than 300,000 today.  Recent statements from Christian leaders have indicated that it is unlikely there are any Christians remaining in Mosul today.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in the United States calls upon people of all denominations in the world community to join the Iraqi Sisters in a moment of prayer on Thursday, June 19 at 6 PM (in your time zone) to pray for an end to the violence and the protection of minority Christians in Iraq…

Click here to read more.

STATEMENT: Pax Christi USA official statement on the crisis in Iraq

Pax Christi USA is saddened by the violence which has gripped Iraq in recent days and which has led to further suffering for the people of that nation. The people of Iraq have borne the brunt of violence for far too long and our hearts are broken over the killing and displacement now taking place. We join Pope Francis—and people all over the world—in praying for an end to the violence and for “security and peace and a future of reconciliation and justice where all Iraqis, whatever their religious affiliation, will be able together to build up their country, making a model of coexistence.” (Pope Francis, June 16, 2014)

In response to the recent unrest in Iraq and the possibility of the crisis continuing to spread, Pax Christi USA is unequivocal in its assertion that U.S. military intervention will not achieve the peace and stability that the people of Iraq deserve. A military solution—whether it include air strikes or ground troops or an increase in the flow of weapons into Iraq—will only serve to increase the suffering of the Iraqi people, not alleviate it. Furthermore, military intervention increases the risk of widening the conflict in the region.

Pax Christi USA calls for a fully inclusive international diplomatic process to address this crisis. The crisis, while centered in Iraq but also including the ongoing tragedy in Syria, is regional in nature and requires a multi-lateral diplomatic response initiated by the United Nations and including regional authorities like the Arab League. The hope for a peaceful solution lies in an effort which addresses the political concerns of all the major factions in the region.

We believe that the unfolding tragedy in Iraq is a direct, if unintended, consequence of the U.S. invasion and occupation of that country. Further military intervention will only exacerbate the situation and perpetuate the cycle of violence and suffering. We pray that the hearts of those in power will be moved to solutions which offer the promise of an end to war. We encourage all people of good will to demand from our leaders that they recognize the failure of military options to bring about the security and peace the Iraqi people deserve and to put their efforts into political, diplomatic solutions to end this violence once and for all.