Category : Iraq

(AP) Iraqi Christians who fled ISIS living in limbo while in exile

A year after tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled communities overtaken by Islamic State militants, their lives are on hold in exile: They won’t go back to Iraq, saying it’s not safe for Christians, but as refugees they’re barred from working in temporary asylum countries such as Jordan. Expectations of quick resettlement to the West have been dashed.

“We’ve lost hope in everything,” said Hinda Ablahat, a 67-year-old widow who lives with dozens of fellow refugees in plywood cubicles set up in a church compound in downtown Amman, the capital of Jordan. “We’ve been sitting here for a year and nothing’s happened.”

About 7,000 Christians from northern Iraq have found refuge in Jordan, including about 2,000 living in church-sponsored shelters.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(PW) ”˜Empire of Fear’ Author Shares Inside Story On ISIS

In addition to writing about your own experiences, you personally interviewed U.S., U.K., and Iraqi officials as well as clergy and religious leaders of all faiths. Can you describe some of the insight people of faith had on ISIS?

One of the terrible tragedies in Iraq is the fate of Christians, who were a central part of Iraq. I think there are more Iraqi Christians now in the state of Michigan than there are in Iraq. There were 1.2 million Christians living in Iraq in 2003; today there are 400,000, and most want to leave. I interviewed Reverend Canon Andrew White (vicar of the sole Anglican church in Iraq); he lost a quarter of his flock who were persecuted or forced to pay a tax or be killed. I asked myself, why has the Christian population gone down? It’s ISIS. The terrible violence, you wouldn’t believe it””what they did to people’s children, the churches they blew up and the number of people they have killed. I cite a report in the book about ISIS cooking a two-year-old Syrian girl and serving it to her family.

Can you describe what life is like in Iraq?….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Christian Today) ISIS blows up historic Mosul church, four children killed

Four children were killed when Islamic State blew up an historic church in Mosul, Iraq’s second city.

The blast destroyed the Mother of Aid church, according to the Kurdish news site Rudaw.

Saeed Mamuzini, of the Mosul branch of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said the children happened to be near the church, which was more than 1,000 years old and was in central Mosul.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) To Many Iraqis, U.S. Isn’t Really Seeking to Defeat Islamic State

In a tent city under a highway overpass in Baghdad, refugees from Iraq’s Sunni province of Anbar were unanimous about whom to blame for their misery.

“I hold Americans responsible for destroying Anbar,” said former policeman Wassem Khaled, whose home was taken over by Islamic State, or ISIS, after the Iraqi army fled from Anbar’s provincial capital of Ramadi last month.

“We all know that America is providing ISIS with weapons and food, and that it is because of American backing that they have become so strong,” added Abbas Hashem, a 50-year-old who also escaped from Ramadi and now lives in the makeshift Baghdad camp that is only occasionally supplied with water.

Such conspiracy theories about America’s support for Islamic State are outlandish, no doubt. But they are so widespread that they now represent a political reality with real-world consequences””making it harder for the U.S. and allies to cobble together Iraqi forces that could regain the country’s Sunni heartland from Islamic State’s murderous rule one day.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Middle East, Politics in General, Terrorism, Theology

(Bloomberg) ISIS' 'toxic recipe' gives strength year after caliphate

When Islamic State seized Iraq’s largest northern city of Mosul almost a year ago, tribal leader Hekmat Suleiman was sure the extremist militants wouldn’t expand further into his hometown.

“We bet Islamic State won’t have what it takes to last,” Suleiman said in October during a visit to the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil, smoke rising from his shisha water pipe. “We’ve reached the beginning of the end of extremism.”

He was wrong. His hometown of Ramadi fell last month, three days before Islamic State captured Palmyra, a 2,000-year-old UNESCO world heritage city on the Syrian side of its territory.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Jordan, Lebanon, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Syria, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Huff. Po) The horrific story of the fall of Mosul as told by an Iraqi Bishop

The Iraqi city of Mosul fell to the Islamic State on June 10, 2014. When the militants laid out an ultimatum — convert, pay a tax or be killed — thousands of Christians and other religious minorities fled to neighboring cities, like the northern city of Erbil.

Even though it’s been more than a year, Erbil’s Chaldean Catholic leader, Bishop Bashar Warda, still vividly remembers what it was like to watch the streams of refugees enter his city.

“It was [a] really sad occasion,” Warda said in an interview with Vatican Radio. “The memories that we have is the queue of thousands of people arriving, tired, crying and leaving behind everything, memories and properties.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, History, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(WSJ) U.S. to Add Forces in Iraq, but Move Doesn’t Quell Critics

Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said he remained “deeply concerned” that the additional forces weren’t close enough to the front lines and couldn’t serve as spotters to strengthen the airstrike mission. “That is the kind of assistance the Iraqis need, but the president has refused to provide,” Mr. McCain said.

Members of Mr. Obama’s party were also unsettled. Rep. Adam Schiff, (D., Calif.) said that while he supports Mr. Obama’s move, he wasn’t hopeful about the political changes the Iraqis must make themselves in a country starkly divided along sectarian lines.

“In the absence of these reforms, there is little that we can do to convince Sunnis to cast out ISIL,” Mr. Schiff said, using an alternate term for Islamic State. Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.), agreed, saying the U.S. can’t go it alone. “America possesses the greatest fighting force the world has ever known, but we can’t put the Middle East back together by ourselves.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, House of Representatives, Iraq, Middle East, Office of the President, Politics in General, Senate, Theology

(NYT) Using Violence and Persuasion, ISIS Makes Political Gains

Days after seizing the Syrian desert city of Palmyra, Islamic State militants blew up the notorious Tadmur Prison there, long used by the Syrian government to detain and torture political prisoners.

The demolition was part of the extremist group’s strategy to position itself as the champion of Sunni Muslims who feel besieged by the Shiite-backed governments in Syria and Iraq.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has managed to advance in the face of American-led airstrikes by employing a mix of persuasion and violence. That has allowed it to present itself as the sole guardian of Sunni interests in a vast territory cutting across Iraq and Syria.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Lebanon, Middle East, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Syria, Terrorism, Violence

(FP) How ISIS is turning the Iraqi security forces’ Humvees into their worst nightmare

When the United States gave more than 3,000 armored Humvees to Iraqi security forces over the past 12 years, U.S. officials could not have imagined that the humble utility vehicles would become a decisive weapon in the hands of Washington’s enemies from the Islamic State.

But that is exactly what has happened. Humvees were some of the 30 vehicles converted into mobile suicide bombs that the Islamic State used to blast through Iraqi security forces’ defenses during its three-day conquest of Ramadi in mid-May. The militants also used an armored bulldozer and at least one U.S.-made M113 armored personnel carrier. There’s a simple reason the militants are using Humvees and other armored vehicles as rolling bombs: Their protective armored plating prevents defenders from killing the trucks’ drivers before the militants can detonate their loads, while the vehicles’ capacity to carry enormous amounts of weight means the Islamic State can sometimes pack in a ton of explosives. Some of the bombs used in Ramadi contained the explosive force of the deadly Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that devastated a federal office building and killed 168 people.

The attack on Ramadi was the latest assault in which the Islamic State used armored Humvees as shock weapons to breach security force perimeters, scare beleaguered Iraqi troops into fleeing their positions, and become the centerpieces of flashy videos the group released through social media to its supporters around the globe.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(W Post) While nobody was looking, ISIS launched a new, deadly offensive

Syrian rebels appealed for U.S. airstrikes to counter a new offensive by the Islamic State in the northern province of Aleppo that could reshape the battlefield in Syria.

The surprise assault, launched over the weekend, opened a new front in the multi-pronged war being waged by the extremist group across Iraq and Syria, and it underscored the Islamic State’s capacity to catch its enemies off guard.

The push ”” which came on the heels of the miltants’ capture of the Syrian city of Palmyra and the western Iraqi city of Ramadi late last month ”” took them within reach of the strategically vital town of Azaz on the Turkish border.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Syria, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(G+M) George Petrolekas-After Ramadi, Canada should question U.S. strategy to defeat ISIS

So nine months into this campaign, is the strategy working, and are the losses of cities like Ramadi temporary setbacks ”“ just bricks and mortar and not symbolic of anything, to paraphrase General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in recent congressional trestimony?

Clearly, the strategy has severe problems. To have any chance of succeeding in its present form, it must be seriously re-tuned or altered.

The first is that the air campaign is proving unable to contain IS. It has had successes, most notably in areas like Kobani or around Mosul, where it has degraded IS at the fringes. On the one hand, where it has utterly rooted out IS, as in Kobani, it is difficult to claim a victory after four months of bombing left the city in ruins and likely in need of billions of dollars to repair. On the other hand, while the IS advance has been stopped in places, not enough air power is available to gut the economic wherewithal of IS. The recent success in Ramadi demonstrates that IS can move where air power is not. The coalition’s undisputed technical superiority does not translate into numerical sufficiency.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Canada, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Middle East, Politics in General, Terrorism, Theology

How ISIS' Win in Ramadi Reveals New Weapons, Tactical Sophistication and Prowess

In late April, a commander for Islamic State said his forces were ready to launch an offensive to take Ramadi, and the group called for fighters to redeploy to Iraq from Syria.

Three weeks later, the jihadist group seized the capital of Anbar province after relentless waves of suicide bombings.

U.S. defense chief Ash Carter has blamed Ramadi’s fall mainly on Iraqi forces’ lack of will to fight. But Islamic State’s battlefield performance suggests the terrorist group’s tactical sophistication is growing””a development the Iraqis and the U.S.-led coalition have so far failed to counter, said Iraqi officials, former U.S. officials and military analysts studying the organization.

An examination of how Ramadi fell indicates that Islamic State commanders executed a complex battle plan that outwitted a greater force of Iraqi troops as well as the much-lauded, U.S.-trained special-operations force known as the Golden Division, which had been fighting for months to defend the city.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Guardian) First Ramadi, then Palmyra: Isis shows it can storm bastions of Syria and Iraq

Islamic State fighters are celebrating their second major conquest in a week in Syria and Iraq as they pick through the ruins of the historic city of Palmyra.

The sudden advance of the militants into the UN heritage site in central Syria resulted in the rout of a national army, the exodus of refugees and a fresh pulse of regional alarm at the resilience of the self-styled caliphate force.

The UN said one-third of Palmyra’s 200,000-strong population had fled. And Isis militants used social media to show themselves posing amid ancient columns in Palmyra on Thursday. Other images displayed a more familiar theme: the summary slaughter of local men whose blood drenched the road.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Syria, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(NYRB) Nicolas Pelham–ISIS & the Shia Revival in Iraq

Southern Iraq’s long-shuttered museums are also finally reopening. The National Museum of Iraq reopened in February 2015 after a $40 million renovation. And in Nasiriya, a city famed for its step ziggurat, the director of the antiquities museum, Iqbal Ajeel, proudly displayed the museum’s exquisite Sumerian miniatures and naked figurines to her first group of high school visitors since the 1991 Gulf War forced its closure.

Few Iraqis in the south openly champion separation from the rest of the country, but the chasm is widening. It is not only a question of ISIS imposing its rules on personal behavior and punishing people only slightly out of line. While ISIS destroys museums, the south refurbishes them; while ISIS destroys shrines, the ayatollahs expand them; and while ISIS is burning relics and books, the Imam Ali shrine hosts a book fair where scripture shares space with romantic novels. On the new campus of Kufa University, a burned-down wreck under American occupation when last I saw it, three engineering professors spoke of the golden age that awaits a united Iraq, or at least its Arab provinces, once the militias defeat ISIS.

But a dissenting fourth engineer quietly questioned why the south should bother. As long as al-Sistani’s jihad was defensive he supported it, but why, he asks, shed blood against ISIS for a Sunni population that is neither welcoming nor particularly wanted? The further north the militia advances, the more lives are lost, and the returns from the battle diminish. Compared to the south’s mineral wealth, the Sunni provinces offer few natural resources. Much of their territory is desert, and their feuding tribes will only cause trouble. Better, he argued, to safeguard what the south already has. In short, he said, breaking a taboo by uttering a word he claims many privately already espouse, why not opt for taqsim, partition? A heavy silence followed.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Rural/Town Life, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) The Assault on Christians, and Hope, in Iraq

Followers of Christ recall their savior’s warning that they will face persecution, and they recall St. Paul’s teaching that suffering produces endurance and character. Most Christians in the Middle East retain their spiritual hope, but they are losing their temporal hope: They fear that they will never return to their ancestral lands, and that the Christian presence in the region might disappear.

Iraq is home to one of the oldest continuous Christian communities in the world, some of whose members still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. But their numbers have plummeted to around 200,000 from 1.5 million before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. A Christian exodus, if it isn’t reversed, would be a devastating loss for Iraq. Iraqi Christians are well-organized, and for years they’ve tended to the educational, cultural and social needs of the wider society.

Christians have also historically helped stabilize the volatile region. “Christians have always played a key role in building our societies and defending our nations,” Jordan’s King Abdullah has said. “There is no Iraq without Christians,” says Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Iraq, Middle East

(Christian Today) Cardinal Vincent Nichols: To have a stable future, Iraq needs Christians

“It is impossible to go there, and to meet especially the children, without being determined that they must have a future,” the Cardinal said.

But the task ahead is vast: regaining land from Islamic State, rebuilding ruined town and cities, establishing law and order and rebuilding society.

Nichols said that in the project to rebuild Iraq, “the presence of the Christian community is essential”.

“I say that not out of a nostalgic sense that this is a Christian community that’s 2,000 years old. This not a cultural, historical, or an archaeological issue. This is an issue of how do you build a stable, balanced society, in that region, and I think… the Christian presence is essential to that mosaic.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) [Egypt's] Grand Mufti Shawki Allam–Terrorists and Their Quranic Delusions

…it is delusional for these terrorists to think that those who were killed in the line of “duty” are considered martyrs and will be rewarded with paradise. The terrorists who are killed aren’t considered martyrs according to Islamic law, even if they considered their act to be a form of jihad, had sincere intentions and were acting out of ignorance. Good intentions don’t justify illegal acts””and it is totally prohibited by Islam to kill innocent people. Thus terrorist acts like 9/11 in the U.S., 7/7 in London or any other similar horrendous attacks are sheer murder and have nothing to do with jihad.

In sum, the noble form of physical jihad””which is waged by legitimate state authorities to fend off aggression and establish justice””has nothing to do with the supposed jihad of these terrorists, who practice nothing more than the ruthless mass murder of innocents. Jihad is a war fought with honor and guided with moral codes of conduct.

Since terrorist groups have the audacity to interpret from the Quran selectively to suit their own agendas, their deviant ideology must be debunked by intellectual responses. The fight will be stronger with the help of the international media and academia in publishing and broadcasting the voices of authentic Muslim scholars who can counter the extremists’ false claims and their warped interpretation of the Quran.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Syria, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(CC) Philip Jenkins– Notes from the Global Church: Assyrians under siege

The Assyrian Chris­tians of northern Iraq are among the people who have been massacred and kidnapped by ISIS militants in recent months. Such accounts are depressingly familiar to anyone who knows the region’s history. In fact, this year marks a grim centennial. Besides be­ing the centennial of the Ar­menian Genocide, it’s the centennial of the year that the Ottoman Turkish regime struck at other Christian minorities whom it suspected of being sympathetic to Russia. The Assyrians call 1915 Sayfo, the Year of the Sword.

Assyrian Christians had very deep roots in the region, and their churches use a Semitic language related to Jesus’ own Aramaic. In late antiquity, believers divided over the Person of Christ. The Monophysite branch evolved to become the modern-day Syrian Orthodox Church. Their Nestorian rivals formed the Church of the East, which remained a flourishing trans­continental institution through the Middle Ages.

By the 20th century, the Assyrian community had declined, split between be­lievers affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church (Chal­deans) and the independent Assyri­ans. For historical convenience, the As­syr­ian label is often applied to all the Syriac-speaking denominations, in­cluding the Syrian Ortho­dox. Their combined population in 1914 was around 600,000, concentrated in what is now northern Iraq and the borderlands of modern-day Syria and Turkey.

These people were the targets of the Assyrian geno­cide.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, History, Iraq, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Violence

(FP) ”˜Elite’ U.S. Military Gear Hoarded by ISIS Leaders

Despite the images we’ve seen splashed across the web of Islamic State fighters driving around Syria and Iraq in American Humvees and waving U.S.-made weapons, there really isn’t all that much American military gear floating around out there.

But what equipment has been captured by the radical Islamists has the tendency to float upward toward the leadership who covet the “elite” U.S. gear, according to a group cataloging illicit arms transfers.

Speaking to a small April 7 gathering at the Stimson Center in Washington, Jonah Leff, director of operations for Conflict Armament Research said that American equipment actually “represents a small fraction” of the 40,000 pieces of gear his teams have cataloged in northern Iraq and Syria since last summer. He said that includes only about 30 U.S.-made M-16s and roughly 550 rounds American-produced ammunition.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Syria, Theology, Violence

CBS' 60 minutes–The terrible cost ISIS in inflicting on Iraq's Christians

The road from St. Matthew’s brings you to the front line, just six miles from the outskirts of Mosul. Every town and village between here and the occupied city is in the hands of the Islamic State. And now, we’re told, for the first time in nearly 2,000 years, there are no Christians left inside Mosul.

Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: They take everything from us, but they cannot take the God from our hearts, they cannot.

Nicodemus Sharaf is the Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mosul, one of about 10,000 Christians who fled the city. We found him living as a refugee in the Kurdish capital, Erbil. He said ISIS fighters were already inside Mosul when he escaped.

Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf: I didn’t have any time to take anything. I was told I had five minutes to go. Just I took five books that are very old.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Washington Post) David Petraeus: ISIS isn’t the biggest problem in Iraq

The proximate cause of Iraq’s unraveling was the increasing authoritarian, sectarian and corrupt conduct of the Iraqi government and its leader after the departure of the last U.S. combat forces in 2011. The actions of the Iraqi prime minister undid the major accomplishment of the Surge. [They] alienated the Iraqi Sunnis and once again created in the Sunni areas fertile fields for the planting of the seeds of extremism, essentially opening the door to the takeover of the Islamic State. Some may contend that all of this was inevitable. Iraq was bound to fail, they will argue, because of the inherently sectarian character of the Iraqi people. I don’t agree with that assessment.

The tragedy is that political leaders failed so badly at delivering what Iraqis clearly wanted ”” and for that, a great deal of responsibility lies with Prime Minister Maliki.

As for the U.S. role, could all of this have been averted if we had kept 10,000 troops here? I honestly don’t know. I certainly wish we could have tested the proposition and kept a substantial force on the ground.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Asia, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Iraq War, Middle East, Politics in General, Theology, War in Afghanistan

(Der Spiegel) ISIS' destruction of artifacts in Iraq seeks to lure West into battle

The images are meant to create an impression, and in this war of images, they don’t miss their mark. Heads are cut off: both the heads of human beings and those of statues. Museums are looted, ancient sites are bulldozed. These images are then dispatched around the world.

It is a calculated escalation that Islamic State is pursuing. It may even be that the images of destroyed artifacts are more effective than those depicting executions, because they are televised everywhere and not relegated to the depths of the Internet. And because we can understand the images of destruction — unlike the photos and videos of executions, which we see as acts of insanity beyond the scope of rational thought.

We aren’t just able to kill in the present, that is the message of these images, we are also able to destroy the past: We are the masters of both time and space. The caliphate’s goal is to expand its path of destruction into the fourth dimension.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Iraq, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(BBC) ISIS 'may have committed genocide' in undertaking Yazidi attacks

Jihadists from the Islamic State (IS) group may have committed genocide and war crimes against the minority Yazidi community in Iraq, the UN says.

In a new report, it says IS had “the intent… to destroy the Yazidi as a group.”

Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled villages in northern Iraq amid IS advances last summer. Many were killed, captured and enslaved.

Yazidis follow an ancient faith that jihadists regard as devil worship.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Independent) Isis is trying to destroy all traces of Christianity in Mosul

Isis militants have attacked a Christian church and cemetery in Iraq, vandalising crosses and defacing religious artefacts in yet another assault on the country’s rich cultural history.

In pictures released by the groups’s media arm, fighters are seen removing a cross and destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary at a church in Mosul, in Iraq. Another image shows a fighter erecting a black Isis flag in place of a cross.

Other photographs being circulated on social media show paintings depicting biblical events, such as the Last Supper, piled up on the floor. The extremist group attempts to justify this destruction by condemning the statues and religious symbols as idolatrous and therefore forbidden.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Iraq, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Independent) Isis is now using chemical weapons in Iraq

Isis is allegedly attacking Iraqi soldiers with roadside bombs containing chlorine gas as allied forces continue a huge assault against the group in Tikrit.

Footage captured by an Iraqi bomb disposal team shows plumes of thick orange gas emerging from a detonated roadside bomb.

The team told the BBC it has diffused “dozens” of chlorine bombs left by Isis militants, which it says are used more as a means to create fear than harm.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Iraq, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) Militants Attack Christian Villages in Syria

Forces from the group calling itself Islamic State launched a fresh offensive to overrun a string of Christian towns in northeastern Syria on Saturday, setting off violent clashes with local fighters mobilized against the militants.

A mixture of Assyrian Christians and Kurds fought off the Islamic State assault, activist groups said, just a week after extremists took about 250 people in the area””many women, children and elderly men.

The contested towns are along the Khabur river in al-Hasaka province, a strategic gateway that would help Islamic State consolidate territory it holds in Iraq and Syria. The population of the area is predominately Christian, while the Kurds are a minority.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Syria, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(FP) Shiite militias with US blood on their hands are leading the charge to drive ISIS out of Tikrit

“We’re moving on Salahaddin,” said Badr Organization spokesman and military commander Karim al-Nouri. “And there are three names that strike fear in the heart of daesh: Hajj Qassem Suleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and Hadi al-Amiri.”

These three figures might not be household names in Indiana, but in Iraq they are the biggest stars within the constellation of Shiite militias that are now trying to drive the Islamic State out of Tikrit, the capital of Salahaddin province. Suleimani, who is the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, regularly travels around the Middle East to lend support to Tehran’s allies; Muhandis, who is the leader of the Kataib Hezbollah militia, was convicted for the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait; and Amiri is the commander of the Badr Organization, one of Iraq’s largest and most prominent Shiite militias. Together, they form the backbone of Iranian influence in Iraq, which is at its highest point in almost four centuries.

Iraq’s Shiite militias have seen their influence skyrocket since last summer, as they have played a central role in beating back the Islamic State’s advance in Baghdad and the surrounding area. Tikrit, however, presents them with new challenges: It is the largest predominantly Sunni city that they have sought to reclaim, and U.S. officials have warned of a sectarian bloodbath if the militias launch an offensive there.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Theology, Violence

(Ethics Daily) Elijah Brown–Iraq's Religious and Ethnic Minorities Face Genocide

Religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq are living at the edge of extinction.

They are marginalized and under threat from the genocidal actions of the Islamic State in Iraq, resulting in the purging of religious and ethnic minorities from their historic homes.

If immediate action is not taken, the existence of religious and ethnic minority communities, such as Christians, Yazidis, Shabak and Turkmen, will continue on a trajectory of precipitous decline into virtual non-existence.

In the last decade, the Christian community has plummeted from approximately 1.5 million to 300,000.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Iraq, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Christians in Iraq: Peace or a sword?

What do the ancient Christian communities of the Middle East, many of them threatened with extinction in lands where they have survived since the dawn of their faith’s existence, most need from their co-religionists in the West? Some want more military support, but others take a different view. That difference emerged during a visit to London by Archbishop Bashar Warda, the top Catholic cleric in Erbil, the only Iraqi city where Christians live in significant numbers.

At a meeting yesterday in the House of Lords, co-organised by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the archbishop reminded people of the hard realities facing his flock. As of a result of last year’s onslaught by Islamic State, perhaps 400,000 people fled their homes in Mosul and the neighbouring Nineveh Plain and many sought refuge in the adjacent area controlled by the Kurdish regional government. The displaced include Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities. Of the 300,000 or so Christians who remain in Iraq (down from 1.4m a couple of decades ago), the great majority now live in Kurdistan, of which Erbil is the capital.

Iraqi Christians are practical, energetic sorts, the archbishop told his British hosts, and they are not sitting around bemoaning their fate. Huge efforts are being made to get the displaced families, who are now holed up in tents, portakabins and half-built shopping centres, into better accommodation where they can become economically active and their children can pursue studies. The archbishop is working hard to start, by next autumn, a new university which will be Catholic in inspiration but open to all faiths.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(BBC) Military action needed in Iraq to help Christians, archbishop of Irbil says

Christians in Iraq “do not have much time left” without direct military action on the ground, the Archbishop of Irbil has told UK peers and MPs.

Archbishop Bashar Warda said air strikes were “not enough” to defeat Islamic State militants and “begged” for Western troops to be deployed.

He said Iraq’s Christian population was declining and that he would speak to the UK government about further action.

The government has said efforts to defeat IS were “comprehensive”.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence