“A living nightmare” is how Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken described life for religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria under the barbarous, genocidal regime of Daesh. Speaking at a Washington conference on the threat posed to these communities, Mr. Blinken said there is grave concern over their very survival.
He noted, however, that the Global Coalition’s momentum against Daesh is growing, and has led to a significant liberation of territory held by the terrorist group, a cut in their financing, a diminution of the flow of their foreign fighter recruits, and the elimination of thousands of their leaders.
But more needs to be done. Iraqi forces, he said, are preparing for the greatest battle against Daesh to date – the liberation of the Iraqi city of Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh plains. Deputy Secretary Blinken stressed that the twin responsibilities of military victory and inclusive political and economic progress “must proceed together in lockstep.”
Mr. Blinken noted that Mosul holds a unique place in Iraqi history and identity: “for thousands of years…Christians, Yezidis, Turkoman, Sunni, Shabak, Kurds, Shia – all have made this ancient city their home.” He called the area the “cradle of civilization,” rich in ancient cultural artifacts, but most importantly, representative of Iraq’s “cultural infrastructure of pluralism and diversity.”
He emphasized the importance of the Iraqi government’s providing “a fundamental accommodation in which all of Iraq’s communities believe they have a future in Iraq:”
“All Iraqis – be they Sunni, Shia, Kurd, Christian, or any other – have to be convinced that the state that they’ve been asked to fight for, the state they’ve been asked to remain a part of, will stand up for their rights and their equities, that they can advance their interests more effectively as citizens of a united Iraq than as supplicants of other regional powers or members of isolated competitive blocks in a fractured and weakened state.”
Deputy Secretary Blinken observed that the real wealth of a nation is defined, not by its size or military prowess, but “by its human resources…Countries that invest in the health, in the prosperity, in the security, in the diversities of their societies will thrive in the 21st century…That is the future.”
And with international assistance, it is the future, Deputy Secretary Blinken said, that the Iraqis can make possible for their communities and for their county.