Politics & Policy

Obama’s Selective Iraqi Rescue Mission

Yazidi refugees flee advancing ISIL forces near Sinjar on August 10, 2014.
The administration steps up to help the Yazidis but leaves Iraqi Christians to fend for themselves.

While President Obama has finally taken action in Iraq, his administration continues to ignore an ongoing genocide. Our president may have stepped in to save the helpless Yazidis who were stranded on Mount Sinjar, but what about the thousands of Christians and other religious minorities who are being systematically slaughtered across the region now controlled by the Islamic State?

Sources from the time I spent in Iraq are telling me that it’s only getting worse. Christian churches are being burned and abandoned. Christian women and children are having their heads lopped off and throats slit. Women are being raped as a tactic of war. And yet the Obama administration has been largely silent.

These true refugees haven’t even been offered refugee status by our country. Isn’t it time for President Obama to follow France’s lead and open the country’s doors to these people who face imminent death?

At the president’s press conference announcing his plan to protect the Yazidis, a small and ancient religious minority, virtually nothing was mentioned about protecting the Christians who face the same threat. Saving the Yazidis is a good idea, but why the narrow focus?

Apparently, saving these Christians is not a priority for this president. The Obama administration has bent over backwards to offer de facto refugee status to hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children who are entering the country illegally. While these children may not come from rosy circumstances, do they face the same threat of extinction as do the Iraqi Christians?

Not even close. President Obama is sending Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson, Mo., to interject the administration into a local law-enforcement issue. Has President Obama asked Secretary of State John Kerry to do his job and recruit other nations to accept Christian refugees? No, he has not.

It’s time for President Obama to lead and defend persecuted Christians with both words and military action. The limited air strikes he approved to protect the Yazidis and take back a few Kurdish objectives are nothing but pinpricks to the Islamic State. They do nothing to change the fundamental realities on the ground.

The air strikes didn’t even save many Yazidis; in fact, the Islamic State massacred scores of fleeing Yazidis after the Obama administration said we accomplished our mission. We needed to rescue them, as well as the Christians, now.

A real rescue mission won’t be easy. First, President Obama will need to build a coalition of nations that will be open to accepting these refugees. Next, he will have to start taking the Islamic State more seriously.

The Islamic State currently controls 50 oil wells in Syria and 20 in Iraq. If it controls an oil-filled region, it will only be a matter of time before it has the resources to target our allies and eventually the American homeland. At this point, Obama’s claim that the Islamic State is a junior-varsity squad appears fatally ridiculous — it now has more wealth and land than al-Qaeda ever came close to controlling.

Al-Qaeda is a movement; the Islamic State, as it calls itself, is a country.

Saving Christians and religious minorities from well-funded Islamic State jihadists will mean deploying ground troops, but it should not require an invasion force. We need troops to coordinate air strikes and conduct rescue missions. While Americans may be war-weary, every American should want to stop this preventable genocide. 

The war between the Islamic State and the Iran-backed governments of Syria and Iraq may resemble a chaotic mutiny on a pirate ship, but it is possible to rescue non-Muslims — including Christians — from the Islamist bloodbath.

Anyone who claims to care about human rights needs to stand up for these persecuted Christians. Anyone who had demanded action in Darfur or Rwanda needs to press this administration to stop these atrocities. As we learned from those other genocides, if America doesn’t act, no one will.

— Hugh Iwanicki is a former emissary to Iraq and author of the recent book Shock and Alarm: What It Was Really Like at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. He has been a recent guest on Fox News and national radio shows, as an expert on radical Islam.

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