01/17/2024, 20.49
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Card Sako: from the war in Gaza to Iranian missiles hitting Erbil, the Mideast is aflame

by Dario Salvi

Iran struck first in Iraqi Kurdistan, then into Pakistani territory, fuelling tensions with Islamabad, while China calls for "restraint". A Christian businessman from Mosul was among the victims in Erbil. In solidarity with the victims, Pope Francis calls for "good relations between neighbours." For the Chaldean primate, Card Sako, Iraq is a "divided" country, its people "tired and beaten”. The path of diplomacy is increasingly fragile.

Milan (AsiaNews) – This was a "reckless and irresponsible" attack against Iraq, a "divided" country that is looking to the future with uncertainty, its people "tired and beaten,” said Card Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, reacting to Iran's military strike in the north with missiles and drones striking targets in the autonomous region of Kurdistan that killed several people, including a prominent member of the Christian community.

Such acts of violence “have been going on for some time," the cardinal notes, but they “make no sense and will not lead to any result other than to fuel an already tense situation. They won’t change reality, just complicate it", while the path "of dialogue and diplomacy" is becoming increasingly fragile, now stifled by the "deafening sound of weapons".

"Every war,” he warns, “involves a shocking human tragedy and the responsibility lies with the major powers. All leaders must overcome the chain of divisions, revenge, violence, conflicts, and wars."

In the attack Iran launched across the border in Iraq, in the Kurdish-majority area, a Christian was killed. Mikhail Sridar was a member of an "important and well-respected" family originally from Mosul, who rose socially over the years by setting up businesses from London to the United Arab Emirates.

“For Christians, Muslims," the Chaldean patriarch stressed, “it makes no difference – here are stricken men and women, brothers and sisters who lost their lives” for no good reason. “We don't know what those who attacked had in mind, but what remains on the ground are the dead."

Turkey's repeated raids in Iraqi Kurdistan are another factor, troubling Pope Francis himself, who today, at the Wednesday general audience, expressed “sympathy and solidarity with the victims, all civilians,” in Erbil.

“Good relations between neighbours are not built with such actions but with dialogue and cooperation,” the pontiff said. “I ask everyone to avoid any step that increases tension in the Middle East and other scenarios of war.”

Such words of peace and commonsense risk being lost in the deafening sound of bombs and missiles that, from Gaza to Lebanon, from Syria to Yemen, are making the region increasingly unstable and insecure.

“These fronts,” Card Sako said, “can widen the war and that’s terrible. Almost every day there are attacks, while world leaders lack seriousness and cannot find solutions.

Instead, “They look on from the outside but do not know how to take clear and strong action to solve the problems in the Middle East, nor in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. This could legitimise other attacks by stronger countries on smaller ones.”

"The United States speaks of democracy, but where is this democracy? Each country pursues its own interests, certainly not human rights,” the prelate laments.

Even the role of the world’s wise, its religious leaders, is now made up "only of speeches" against wars, but they lack concrete actions "to respect the lives and rights of others" while "the risk of a war with religious connotations between Jews and Muslims with the involvement of Eastern Christians" is becoming ever greater.

According to Iranian sources, Tehran’s missile strike in Erbil (and Idlib in Syria) is reportedly not linked to the war in Gaza, yet the latter’s influence is undeniable. What is more, the distance between the Syrian province that was hit is as great as the distance that separates the Iranian border from Tel Aviv, something that has not gone unnoticed.

In the end, what counts is that the operation – reportedly against a secret Israeli Mossad base, according to the official Iranian line – killed five Kurdish civilians, including a child, and a Christian.

“These attacks violate Iraqi sovereignty," said former Christian lawmaker Yonadam Kanna, founder and leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, speaking to AsiaNews. Nevertheless, it is Iraq's responsibility to “stop any threat to Iran and Turkey" from within its territory.

"Turkish forces are fighting the PKK in mountains far from the cities," the Christian leader explained, but the threat is real for rural residents who are "forced to abandon their villages and flee."

Iranian targets instead "are at or near cities" but, as an Iraqi national security adviser pointed out, "there is no Mossad centre" in the targeted area in Erbil. This is why the attack, in his view, could be construed as "a kind of pressure on the authorities" of Kurdistan, with no link to Gaza.

What is certain is that "all Iraqis suffer from corruption, poor public services, joblessness, and have no faith in the future."

For the former lawmaker, Christians "suffer much more from discriminatory policies and legislative problems (poorly represented under the existing election law) that increase their level of poverty and fuel emigration.”

After Iraq and Syria, Iran has also opened a south-eastern front following its attack with missiles and drones in Pakistan, defined as "illegal" by the Pakistani government, killing at least two children, and wounding three more.

Iran reportedly targeted two bases of the jihadi group Jaish ul-Adl, linked to al-Qaeda, but civilian casualties risk triggering a new escalation amid existing conflicts and deep rifts.

In view of the situation, China has called on Iran and Pakistan to show caution. Through Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning, Beijing asked “the two sides to exercise restraint, avoid actions that escalate the tension, and jointly keep the region peaceful and stable”.

Both Iran and Pakistan are allied with China and members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which China dominates.

For Pakistan, the attack was "totally unacceptable" because it is unrelated to any provocations coming from its territory.

Iran was quick to react saying that it respected the territorial integrity of other countries, including Iraq and Pakistan, but noted that it was ready to respond to any outside threat.

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See also
Kirkuk: Muslims and Christians united for dialogue, only way to save Iraq
Card Sako warns the war between Israel and Hamas risks turning into a 'regional conflict'
25/10/2023 19:00
Patriarch Sako ends exile, meets with the authorities in Baghdad
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Card Sako’s New Year message calls for overcoming divisions, tensions to reform Iraq
03/01/2022 17:23
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04/09/2021 14:32


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