Baghdad (AsiaNews) - The United Nations Security Council met yesterday in an emergency session to discuss the crisis in Iraq, calling on the governments of the international community to assist Baghdad in dealing with the humanitarian crisis caused by the jihad offensive in the north of the country. There are hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the violence of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), mostly from the Christian and Yazidi minorities.
In a joint statement signed by 15 members of the UN Security Council "calls on the international community to support the government and people of Iraq and to do everything possible to alleviate the suffering of the people." The Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply dismayed" by what is happening in the Arab country.
With each passing day the situation of Iraqi Christians driven from their homes and land by the relentless advance of Sunni Islamist militias becomes more and more tragic. The first city to fall was Mosul, followed by several other cities of the north, on the Nineveh plain, such as Sinjar, Telkef, Batnaya and Telleskuf. A de facto Caliphate has been imposed under strict sharia, forcing minorities to flee, to convert to Islam or pay a tax (the jizya, imposed on all "infidels").
On the night between 6 and 7 August militants took control of Qaraqosh, the most important Christian city in northern Iraq and the surrounding areas; at least 100 thousand members of the minority fled, abandoning homes, property and possessions in search of shelter. The Islamits advance was facilitated by the gradual withdrawal of the Peshmerga, the Kurdish paramilitary troops from the territories which hitherto had slowed the advance of the Islamists.
According to international political experts there are five key elements behind the military success of the Islamic Caliphate: the availability of new weapons seized from defeated enemies (as occurred in Mosul, when the Baghdad army fled without a fight abandoning weapons and vehicles); the experience gained in the war in Syria; Targeted battles and a winning strategy; an effective propaganda, able to also use modern technologies; increasingly pronounced weakness of opponents, including the Peshmerga on the military and political level.
Yesterday Pope Francis renewed his appeal for peace and the "end of the humanitarian tragedy taking place in Iraq". In a statement on his behalf, made by Vatican Press Office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Pope has asked the international community to "calls on the international community to protect all those affected or threatened by the violence, and to guarantee all necessary assistance - especially the most urgently needed aid - to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others".
The Pope's appeal comes in the wake of the dramatic letter sent to the Pope by the Patriarch of Baghdad in which he denounced the forced exodus of Christians and the immobility of the international community. In the letter Mar Sako calls for a "consciousness" of the international community and the world superpowers to take "concrete actions and solidarity" for Iraqi Christians, because, "their very survival" in Iraq and the Middle East is at risk.
Meanwhile, the president of the United States Barack Obama confirmed that he had authorized airstrikes against Islamic militants in northern Iraq, where their advance has threatened American interests and to stem the "carnage" of religious minorities.
However, he ruled out sending troops to the Arab country. Washington is also currently working on the distribution of humanitarian aid for displaced people, in particular the Christian and Yazidi minorities. "The US cannot and should not intervene every time there is a crisis in the world", Obama said. But he said the US could not turn a "blind eye" to the prospect of violence "on a horrific scale", especially when the Iraqi government had requested assistance. "We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide".