President Barack Obama has ordered an additional 450 U.S. troops be deployed to Iraq, but insisted that they will not engage in battle with terror group ISIS. The U.S. has 3,050 forces stationed in the country, but they are focused on training Sunni militias and providing other types of support.
"To improve the capabilities and effectiveness of partners on the ground, the president authorized the deployment of up to 450 additional U.S. military personnel to train, advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces," the White House said in a statement on Wednesday.
Elissa Slotkin, the principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, added: "These forces, again, will provide an advisory, training, and support role. They are not conducting offensive ground combat operations." more >>
It has been one year since Islamic State began its conquest of a third of Iraq and its destruction of that country's ancient Christian civilization. While a massive international aid effort has helped most of the exiled Christians to subsist, it is time to look for a new strategy to help them fully live.
In a blitzkrieg of mass deportations, beheadings, women-slave auctions, and imprisonment of children, ISIS captured Mosul on June 10, 2014, and from there the rest of Nineveh province, Iraq's Christian heartland. Apart from some who were taken hostage or killed, most of Nineveh's 150,000 Christian residents left behind all their possessions and managed to flee the jihadists' "convert-or-die" policy. (Two new books chronicle these events in detail: Christian Persecutions in the Middle East, by George Marlin, and Defying ISIS, by Johnnie Moore.)
For the past year, these survivors have put their lives on hold in miserable conditions in church-run camps in Iraqi Kurdistan and nearby countries, while anxiously waiting for someone to liberate their hometowns. As the dust settles on Ramadi — where late last month an overwhelming Iraqi force made a disorderly retreat from ISIS — it is clear that that day may be years in coming. more >>
One of Mosul's largest Christian churches is being destroyed and turned into a mosque for Islamic State jihadists.
The Islamic State terror group posted flyers throughout Mosul announcing in a decree that the Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Ephraim is reopening as the "mosque of the mujahideen" or jihad fighters. Christian symbols and relics have already been scrubbed and demolished from the ancient church.
It's believed that all Christians have either been executed or have evacuated the city since Islamic militants overran the area last year. Christians were told to flee or face execution. more >>
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that more than 320,000 people have died in the ongoing Syrian civil war since March 2011, which includes at least 11,493 children, while more than 1,500,000 people are believed to have been wounded. The group slammed the international community for its continued silence on the issue, arguing that it encourages the bloodshed.
"The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1,500,000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties," SOHR said in a statement on Tuesday.
It's latest report included a detailed breakdown of the different types of casualties in the civil war. It is being fought between the government of President Bashar al-Assad, various rebel groups that have risen up against his army, and terror group ISIS, which has captured numerous cities in the country. more >>
Earlier this week a news report unwittingly demonstrated how Turkey—once deemed the most "secularized" Muslim nation—is returning to its Islamic heritage, complete with animosity for the infidel West and dreams of the glory days of jihadi conquests:
A group of devout Muslims from across Turkey prayed before the city's historic Hagia Sophia on the 562nd anniversary of the Turkish conquest of Istanbul [Constantinople], demanding that the site be turned back into a mosque.
Men and women from across the country gathered before the Hagia Sophia museum early May 31, as part of an event organized by the Anatolian Youth Association (AGD) with the motto "Break the chains, Open Hagia Sophia," and prayed the morning prayer with a call for the reconversion of the museum into a mosque. more >>
Saleem al-Jubouri, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament and the country's highest-ranking Sunni politician, said in a speech on Monday at the Institute of Peace in Washington D.C. that defeating terror group ISIS will not be enough to end radicalization in the region. He said that a "new democracy" must be "built in the minds of people" in order to prevent new forms of oppression.
Jubouri pointed out that some who are fighting ISIS militants in Iraq are being heavily armed by foreign forces, and will still be in possession of such weapons if or when the terror group is driven out of the territory.
He said that "those who have weapons are in a much more powerful situation than others," referring to the various armed groups who have been pushing back against ISIS. more >>