Catching Up With ISIS
Posted at 2:57 p.m. on July 22, 2014
Sako speaks at a news conference in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on Tuesday. (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
The airliner-crash tragedy in Ukraine and the fighting in Gaza over the past week have nudged aside what had been the biggest foreign policy story of the summer — the rise of the Islamic State (aka ISIS aka ISIL) in Iraq. The insurgent force is still causing its share of turmoil, though.
Islamic militants have ejected Christians from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, and reports say that few — if any — Christians remain. They were given an ultimatum between converting to Islam, paying a tax or facing death.
“The threat is the latest blow to the dwindling Christian population in Iraq, where the faith has been present for almost 2,000 years, clerics say, brought by early disciples to the fertile plains of the Tigris and Euphrates,” writes Nabih Bulos for the Los Angeles Times.
Over the weekend, Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church — Iraq’s largest Christian denomination — said the militants were worse than Genghis Khan.
Bloomberg Businessweek’s Jason Motlagh reports that about 20 miles away from Mosul, militants have blocked pipes that connect Qaraqosh and nearby Christian villages with the Tigris River: “Without a sufficient number of deep wells to fill the gap, the city must have water trucked in, at huge cost, from Kurdish-controlled areas just 15 miles away.”
Also near Mosul, the Mar Behnam monastery, dating to the 4th century, was overrun by Islamic fighters, according to the BBC.
Washington still has its eye on the conflict, of course. This week two congressional committees are holding hearings on the issue: House Foreign Affairs on Wednesday morning, and Senate Foreign Relations on Thursday morning.