Self-Help Must Be Our Primary Strategy for Survival
Assyrians must depend on ourselves to ensure our security and our homeland. Recent history has proven that others’ interests are not sufficiently aligned with Assyrian security to warrant their meaningful and sustained intervention on our behalf. In fact, Assyrians have been lobbying the United States Government, other Western governments, and the United Nations for several years now, calling for assistance to help Assyrians survive with security and equality in our homeland. Despite modest legislative success, none of this legislation has had a practical, tangible, and lasting positive impact for Assyrians on the ground.
- From 2008 to 2011, $42 million was appropriated to assist the development of ethno-religious minorities in the Nineveh Plain. Less than 0.5% of these funds reached independent Assyrian non-governmental organizations actually based in the Nineveh Plain. More than 99% of these development aid appropriations were directed through U.S. government partners, such as the Kurdistan Regional Government, resulting in no benefit to Assyrians and increasing our reliance on others.
The U.S. Congress’ appropriations legislation for FY 2012 required the State Department to report on the following:
- implementation of Article 125 of the Iraqi Constitution which would help create a province in the Nineveh Plain;
- assistance in building an indigenous community police force in the Nineveh Plain; and
- efforts to support non-governmental organizations in the area.
- In the wake of the Islamic State invasion, the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorized funding for “local security forces with a national security mission.” However, there was no benefit to Assyrians since no language requiring direct support to independent, legitimate forces such as the NPU was secured in the subsequently required appropriations legislation that actually allocates the funds. In other words, Congress gave itself permission to authorize funds for the purpose of supporting local security forces but decided not to direct the Department of Defense to so expend any such funds.
- The 2016 NDAA repeated the “local security forces” language and the explanatory text was now even more specific, stating “local security forces that are committed to protecting highly vulnerable ethnic and religious minority communities, such as Yazidi, Christian, Assyrian and Turkmen communities, against the ISIL threat.” Again, this legislation offers no benefit to Government of Iraq-authorized, legitimate forces like the NPU because they are not identified in the subsequently required appropriations legislation necessary to actually allocate the funds.
- To date, the NPU has not received any support directly from the US as a result of the 2015 or 2016 authorizations nor has received support from the US government conditionally routed to the NPU through the Government of Iraq.
- In May 2016, the US House of Representatives passed language for the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act likely to be included in the final legislation calling for safe areas, including the Nineveh Plain, be secured for the resettlement and reintegration of ethnic and religious minorities. The authorization for supporting local security forces is now amended to reference “ethnic and religious minority groups,” with the explanatory text now stating that “the United States should support appropriately vetted, effective indigenous groups in Syria and Iraq, including vulnerable ethnic and minority groups such as Iraqi Christian militias, with a national security mission.”
- Honest observers of the political process should realize that this latest magical language will not lead to direct support for Government of Iraq-authorized, legitimate security forces like the NPU. While it is likely to be included in the final 2017 NDAA, if history is any judge, there will likely not be any subsequent appropriation language so directing the actual expenditure of such funds.
- Thus, the decision for the US government to support the NPU is strictly at the discretion of the Obama administration and the Department of Defense within its broader executive authority. That is, these legislative successes in securing language in the NDAA over the last few years have actually placed absolutely no condition or requirement on the Executive to act.
- While the Obama administration certainly could exercise its discretion to act in support of the survival of free and equal Assyrians in Iraq, the Obama administration continues to have a strict policy of directing anti-Islamic State funding through the Government of Iraq and, at least up to now, refuses to place pre-conditions on any such support to the Government of Iraq to aid Chaldeans, Syriacs, and other Christian Assyrians.
- In fact, listen to what Yacoob Yaco, Chairman of the NPU Military Committee, is told directly by American military in the field.
- Even Government of Iraq-authorized, legitimate forces such as the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Peshmerga forces must have US funding appropriated for them directed through Baghdad.
- The only governmental support that the NPU shall receive is from the Government of Iraq itself and not because of any existing US legislation.
- The NPU began receiving salaries for 350 of its fighters after being directly authorized by Nineveh Liberation Operation Command to participate in the liberation of the Nineveh Plain and secure the region.
- The NPU has also received small shipments of light arms.
- Lastly, the NPU was authorized to open several bases in the Nineveh Plain but received no funding from the Government of Iraq to actually build those bases.
- Only a significant on the ground presence by the NPU will ensure that the jurisdiction of the Nineveh Plain has a chance at becoming a stand alone province.
- Current levels of support from the Government of Iraq mobilizes only a sliver of the NPU’s potential full force structure, and without adequate provisioning.
- The NPU needs to train additional forces to participate fully in the liberation of the Nineveh Plain and to establish a substantial presence on the ground afterward.
- Standing up forces in the preparation, execution and consolidation of military operations to liberate the Nineveh Plain is the highest priority.
- And so the Diaspora must act now.
- The Diaspora of Chaldeans, Syriacs, and other Christian Assyrians must demonstrate its faith in our People as a fighting force if we are to expect others to have faith in us, too.
- Failing to act now risks our Nation’s entire position and removes any real political choices. The liberation of Nineveh will occur over the next year. We simply do not have a year to wait and see if funding from the Government of Iraq materializes. And based on the actual facts of what international actors have done to date, there is no reason to think the United States Government or any other world actors either have the ability or will chose to exercise its influence to sway the Government of Iraq to act more expeditiously to supply and augment the forces of the NPU. We must act now.
- And even as we may all hold out hope for international support beyond isolated acts of charity that do not sustain our independent ability to survive in our land, others will only come to our aid to assist us in our own defense only after we demonstrate our own willingness to fight and defend ourselves. That is, some international support may eventually materialize, but its our own assertion of rights to defend ourselves that is practically is a prerequisite before such meaningful international support may be realized. So we must take the first step, and we must do so now.
- Our People have learned that we cannot place our faith in anyone but ourselves to do what is right and necessary for our survival.
This material is distributed by the Nineveh Plain Defense Fund on behalf of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units and the Assyrian Democratic Movement. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, DC.
© 2016, Nineveh Plain Defense Fund (NPDF)