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Protect Iraq's Christians

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on International Policy has asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to consider measures that would help improve the deteriorating situation for Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq. - from this news item

This northern preserve can and should be a semi-autonomous region, connected to an independent Kurdistan. Unlike the Arabs, the Kurds have another identity, other than Islam, to appeal to, and their mistreatment by the Arabs (including the mass murder of the al-Anfal campaign, which elicited not a syllable of protest from any Arab government or the Arab League, or indeed from any Arabs at all, save for Kanan Makiya and possibly another writer or two publishing in London). Many Kurds are genuinely and not unfeignedly grateful, and possibly for quite a while -- for the American protection against Iraqi air power from 1991 to 2003, and for the removal of Kurd-murdering Saddam Hussein and his Arab regime. If Sunni-Shi’a strife could preoccupy the Arabs, this would give the Kurds their best chance to achieve an independnet Kurdistan, and that independent Kurdistan, in turn, would or could inspire Kurds in Iran and possibly Syria to revolt, and not only Kurds in Iran, but also other non-Persian minorities -- Baluchis, Arabs in Khuzistan, Azeris. Thus an independent Kurdistan would threaten in different ways both Iran and Syria. And an independent Kurdistan would also not go unnoticed by Berbers in North Africa, especially in the Kabyle, or for that matter by Berber immigrants to France, who make up most of the membership of the secular groups such as "maghrebins laiques" (and who, to the extent that they can be encouraged to regard Arabs with hostility, are more likely to collaborate with the French security services, and even, perhaps, in France, to jettison Islam altogether).

The problem for the American government is that it cannot be flexible, cannot admit to itself that the original policy in Iraq --- to do everything possible to keep the country together, to force the Kurds to remain within an "Iraq" that most cannot bear to endure any longer -- was wrong. Partly it is a matter of simply wanting to save face, of not being able to take in new information -- about Islam, about the islamization of Europe that is far more threatening than anything that happens, or does not happen, in Iraq and the Muslim Arab states. And partly it reflects the want of imagination and timidity that inhibits American policy -- especially, in this case, timidity towards Turkey.

But it is perfectly possible, given that the United States would be the diplomatic and military supporter of Kurdistan, for the American government to extract from that government a promise not to make territorial demands on Turkey (with Iran and Syria, however, the sky's the limit), on threat of having all military supplies cut. And then the government of Turkey, in turn, would not be asked but told that the American government would be the guarantor of Turkey's borders, and that instead of threatening to invade Kurdistan, the Turkish government should see the wisdom of acquiescence, and of using this new nation-state as a vehicle for weakening both Syria and the Iranian menace.

And there is one other promise to be extracted from the Kurds. And that is that the Kurds must guarantee the continued existence, and help to protect against the Arabs, Sunni or Shi'a, a Chaldo-Assyrian autonomous region, that would be created in northern Iraq, and to which Christians who do not flee elsewhere, could move and retain their ways, their customs, their traditions, and Christianity would still have a presence, albeit a reduced one, in Iraq. During the past century, constant pressure of Muslims has reduced the power and presence of non-Muslims in all the Muslim lands -- Christians in Lebanon and Turkey and North Africa and Egypt have suffered declines in power and relative numbers, and in the same way, for the same reasons, Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh have been harried, persecuted, driven out, murdered.

It may be that Christians will wish to leave Iraq altogether, and try to swell the ranks of Christians elsewhere in the Middle East -- perhaps Lebanon would be the best choice, now that Syria's Alawite despot, baby Assad, has apparently thrown in his lot with the Shi'a of Iran, and of Lebanon, and even permitted Shi'a missionaries to work among not only the Sunnis (understandable from his point of view) but also (and this is amazing) among the Alawites, those entirely unorthodox Muslim worshippers of Mary, as well.

There is one more possibility, mentioned here on many occasions. That is to provide for a continued Christian presence in the Holy Land (right now it is only the government of Israel that guarantees continued Christian access, and the Israelis are under a state of permanent siege, that Lesser Jihad conducted against it that has no, can have, no end) by moving some Assyrians and Chaldeans to the "West Bank."

Room would be made for them, and the Israeli government agree, only if there were to be the kind of population exchange that that took place between Hindus and Muslims at Partition in 1947-48, or between Greeks and Turks in 1922. Arabic-speaking (but non-Arab) Christians from Iraq would settle in those places from which Arab Muslims, who could hardly be pleasant neighbors for those fleeing Muslim Arab persecution, would be removed, to go to the Arab Muslim country of their choice -- Jordan, or for that matter western Iraq, to swell the ranks of the Sunnis, and possibly to dream of sharing in that oil wealth that, of course, will never come to them if they continue to live, and plot, in the place so absurdly renamed the "West Bank."