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Can the U.S. Save Iraq's Christians?

While I normally do not link to a blog, I find this editorial to be a good summation of the fears of Iraqi Christians. In short, Al Qaeda militants led an attack on 11 Christian communities in Iraq simultaneously, killing 30. This occurred right after an assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, which killed 60. Prime Minister Maliki was quick to offer condolences to Christian leaders in the community. But these words have not led to direct action on the part of either the U.S. or Iraqi governments.

Iraqi Christians have historically made up 1% of the Iraqi population, but Persian Gulf War II displaced and killed many of them. As a result, some fear that the community, to quote this editorial, is “on the brink of extinction.” Their solution is well-articulated and well-meaning: get Secretary of State Clinton to decry the “genocide” of Christians.  But what this proposal has in forcefulness, it lacks in comprehension.

For starters, if anyone should decry the killing of Christians, it should be President Barack Obama. The fact that no proposal has mentioned him by name is telling. Specifically, it is a silent indictment of his post-war conduct. His inter-meshing of Iraq and stimulus spending in his August 31st drawdown speech sent a noticeable signal that the war was secondary to his domestic concerns. (A recent example of this argument is Mr. Obama's delegation to Vice President Biden of assisting in Iraq's drive to form a new government.)  In order for any proclamation by any high-ran

king official of this Administration to have any effect, the Obama Administration cannot suffer from an attention deficit. It partially defeated President Bush's advocacy of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), allowing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to assemble a coalition which successfully killed the deal.  The stakes are much higher here, with lives and cultures hanging in the balance.

To that end, President Obama should forcefully advocate the protection of Iraq's Christians. This also involves what columnist Charles Krauthammer would call a “diplomatic infusion” into Iraqi-American relations. Currently the United States has 50,000 standby troops. President Obama can offer their services in the protection of Iraqi churches. If that is too politically risky of a situation (when it comes to lives, I would argue politics be damned), then Mr. Obama can meet with Prime Minister Maliki and make the matter a top item issue in discussions; after which he can increase the amount of contacts between the State Department and Mr. Maliki's government. This would delegate the task to Mr. Maliki while at the same time use America's leverage to guide him in this direction.

If reason is any indicator, Mr. Maliki will jump at the chance to act once American pressure is placed. The State of Law party has never had any contact or positive associations with Al-Qaeda.  Iraqi President Jalal Talibani has no use for them and even Mr. Allawi (who is aligned with the Sunni bloc) is himself a Shiite. Combine this lack of state support for AQI with Mr. Maliki's desire to show the American government that he still has our interests over Iranian influence, and he could see this as a win-win situation. His “Western approved” bona fides go up while causing little to no fractures within his admittedly fragile coalition.

If there is a genocide brewing, the time to act is now.

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