Arm Assyrian Forces in the Fight Against ISIL
Urge the US to Aid in Stopping the Ethnic Cleansing of Assyrians, including Chaldeans and Syriacs, from Iraq and Syria
The Assyrian people, including Chaldeans and Syriacs, are on the cusp of extinction from their native homeland in Iraq and Syria. We are witnessing a systematic ethnic cleansing and genocide by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). We demand the immediate attention of the United States Government to prevent the irrevocable disappearance of the Assyrian people from their homeland in the Middle East.
Prior to the 2003 Iraq War and 2011 Syrian Civil War, the population of Christian Assyrians, including Chaldeans and Syriacs, was an estimated 2.7 million (1.2 million in Iraq, and 1.5 million in Syria). Over half the population in Iraq has fled as refugees due to ongoing persecution, and in June 2014, the Islamic State displaced the last of the Assyrian Christians from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains. More than 100,000 Assyrians, along with tens of thousands of other ethnic minorities, were driven out from their homes and sought refuge primarily in the Kurdish Regional Government. More recently on February 23rd, ISIL attacked 35 Assyrian villages along the Khabur River in northeastern Syria, taking more than 220 Assyrian hostages and forcing 3,000 to flee, and on March 7th ISIL launched a second round of attacks against Tel Tamar and several other Assyrian villages on the Khabur River.
At the same time, ISIL destroyed priceless Assyrian and Hellenistic antiquities in the Mosul Museum and the ancient ruins of Nineveh, Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Hatra. These acts are not simply to generate fear amongst Assyrians and drive them from the land but aim to erase the physical and historical connections of Assyrians to their ancient homeland in a concerted effort of ethnic cleansing.
As Assyrians flee the Middle East, Christianity’s very existence is threatened in its own birthplace. Yet the survival of Middle Eastern Christianity should not be the focal point. Christianity will survive elsewhere. But Assyrians, if fully uprooted from their homeland, will face cultural extinction as assimilation in over a dozen diaspora communities around the world takes hold.
In order to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Assyrians from the Middle East, we urge the United States Government to provide the following interventions:
1. Directly arm the Nineveh Plain Protection Unit (NPU), the local independent Assyrian security force launched by the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) in the central Assyrian homeland in the Nineveh Plain of Iraq. The ADM, the only independent Assyrian political party with representatives elected to the Iraqi Parliament, began the NPU with the long-term aim of incorporating the NPU into the emerging Iraqi National Guard. The FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allows for funding local security forces in Iraq but also requires partial co-funding by the Government of Iraq. This co-funding provision makes the arming of local Assyrian security through the Iraqi Government extremely implausible. Thus, the US administration should utilize its discretionary powers under the NDAA to waive the co-funding requirement and provide direct support to the Nineveh Plain Protection Unit.
2. Directly arm the Syriac Military Council, which is currently resisting ISIL in northeastern Syria. The Syriac Military Council was founded by the Syriac Union Party, which is opposed to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Asaad. The US should provide military support and training to the Syriac Military Council under the 2014 authorization to assist Syrian moderate rebel forces.
3. Increase targeted airstrikes to support the independent local Assyrian forces resisting ISIL.
4. Pass the Authorization for the Use of Military Force as requested by the President.
5. Lead efforts for the creation of internationally protected zones in the Nineveh Plains in Iraq and the Khabur region of Syria for Assyrians and other ethnoreligious minorities. As a member of the United Nations Security Council, the US should present and help pass a resolution under the UN Chapter VII to develop protected zones in northern Iraq and northeastern Syria. Creating protected zones is a necessary first step for Assyrians to be able to realize their rights without threat of persecution, force, or undue patronage.
6. Exert pressure on the Iraqi Government, and assist where possible, to aid in the development of a Nineveh Plain Province by implementing Article 125 of the Iraqi Constitution.
7. Provide immediate humanitarian aid to the internally displaced people in Iraq and Syria by directly utilizing independent Assyrian non-governmental organizations on the ground.
This 21st century genocide must be stopped. If the US is not going to engage in direct combat, then supporting local Assyrian forces is a viable alternative to deploying US troops and essential to securing a future for Assyrians in their homeland in Iraq and Syria. ISIL should not be allowed to continue forward with their mass killings and crimes against humanity. Assyrians, Coptics, Yezidis, and other minorities in the Middle East are being massacred at the hands of ISIL. We have witnessed these horrific acts and must unite to stop these crimes against humanity.
Moreover, the survival of Assyrians and other minorities is not simply a moral issue but is deeply aligned with the national security interests of the United States. The survival of Assyrians in the Middle East is a critical marker of success in the fight against the evil and disregard for human rights that ISIL presents. American interests in seeing a democratic and pluralistic society that respects the rights of minorities may only be realized with meaningful efforts to preserve the Assyrian people in the Middle East. The disappearance of Assyrians and other minorities amplifies a vicious process of sectarian strife and fragmentation that otherwise will engulf the Middle East in war for decades. It is imperative the United States act now before it is too late.