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Earlier this week, Western Journalism published an article about a plan by American Christian Organizations to establish a protected Christian homeland or even an independent state for persecuted Middle Eastern Christians in the Nineveh plains in Iraq (near Mosul).
Last year, Joseph Hakim, the head of the International Christian Union, became one of the first American Christian leaders who made the case for a Christian independent state in the Middle East.
Hakim repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for not doing enough to save the Middle Eastern Christians and told Front Page magazine the following:
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“Christians need a state of their own and an alliance with the U.S. and Israel. Otherwise, being leaderless and without a military force, Christians have no chance to survive.”
This was followed by another initiative by the Philos Project and In Defense of Christians that received the backing of several Congressmen and has already resulted in proposed legislation.
Those groups advocate the forming of a “protected Christian homeland” or a “Safe Haven province” in the Nineveh plains in Iraq in order to preserve Christianity in the Middle East after the genocide by Islamic State and persecution by other Islamist terror groups eliminated whole Christian communities in Syria and Iraq.
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“Christians in the Middle East will only be safe when they have a protected homeland, a foundation on which to build their shattered society,” Robert Nicholson, president of the Philos Project, told a Sept. 7 gathering of Christian groups in Washington, D.C.
The homeland would have its own police force but its security should be safeguarded by an international rapid deployment force, Nicholson explained.
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“Christians in the Middle East will only be safe when they have a protected homeland, a foundation on which to build their shattered society,” the Philos director added.
He then gave some examples of persecuted peoples who “secured territory” to rebuild their societies after persecution or genocide.
“History has shown us various examples of this concept working in practice, of minority peoples under existential threat surviving and thriving by securing territory: Israel, Armenia, Iraqi Kurdistan, even (to a far less satisfactory degree) Native American reservations in the U.S.,” Nicholson said.
“There has been no official Israeli reaction to the plan, but many in Israel would no doubt like to remind Nicholson (and Hakim) that the Muslims in the Middle East have yet to come to terms with the existence of the only non-Muslim state in their midst,” we wrote on Sept. 13, before explaining why Muslims don’t except a non-Muslim entity in the Middle East.
“The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs has never been a dispute about a piece of land but about the existence of a Jewish state in the Dar al-Islam, the house of Islam, as the Muslim call all territory that has been part of the original Caliphate,” the report said.
After all, when the idea of a Jewish entity in the Middle East slowly gained international support after the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the San Remo Conference in 1920 which expressed international support for a “Jewish National Home” in their ancient Biblical homeland, the Muslim reaction was the same.
The Arabs didn’t start their violent resistance against Jewish independency in 1948 when the State of Israel was established but after the establishment of the British Mandate for Palestine that was meant to realize the “Jewish National Home” in what was then suddenly called Palestine.
Based on this historical reality, it is fair to assume the establishment of an Iraqi Christian entity that is less than a state will arouse the same type of resistance.
However, the American Christians who participated in the event in Washington think different.
In an e-mail to Western Journalism, Vivian Hughbanks of the Philos Project pointed out that her organization thinks there is a stark difference between a “safe haven province” or a “protected Christian homeland” and the full-blown state Hakim proposed last year.
She emphasized that Philos doesn’t want to establish an independent state for the Assyrian Christian minority in Iraq.
Philos president Nicholson even claims that the Christian organizations have secured the support of the central Iraqi government in Baghdad for the idea of a protected homeland for the Iraqi Christians.
There remain, however, a few serious problems with the proposal.
First, a protected homeland is something different than a safe haven (in Nineveh).
The Kurds had a temporary safe haven when the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein cracked down on them right after the first Gulf War in 1991.
In a first reaction to Hussein’s persecution of the Kurds, the U.S.-led coalition established a no-fly zone for Hussein’s air force in northern Iraq after millions of Kurds were trapped in a mountainous area at the Turkish border after they fled from their homes.
This was followed by a British initiative under the codename “Operation Haven” that aimed to provide humanitarian aid to the Kurds and to create a safe environment so displaced Kurds could return home.
A safe haven is not what Nicholson had in mind when he spoke about the future of the Iraqi Christians in a post-ISIS Iraq.
He envisioned a situation whereby the Iraqi Christians live safely in the Nineveh plains with their own police force and other institutions that are similar to what the Kurds in northern Iraq have.
According to Nicholson, the “protected Christian homeland” should be secured by an international rapid deployment force with the agreement of the Iraqi government.
This idea is suffering from serious flaws, too.
First, Iraq is slowly becoming an Iranian proxy state and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is busy building military bases for its Al-Quds Brigade between Mosul (Nineveh) and Kirkuk, as Western Journalism has reported.
Iran will never allow the implementation of the plan for a Christian protected homeland in the Nineveh region because the Islamic Republic has similar ideas about the rights of Christians in the Middle East as Islamic State and wants an Iranian controlled corridor that stretches from the Iranian border near Mosul to the Syrian Golan Heights near Israel.
Second, the Iraqi government cannot be trusted when it says that it will decentralize the government in Baghdad and support the establishment of a Christian homeland in Nineveh.
The current Iraqi offensive to liberate territories under ISIS’ control has brought Iranian-backed Shiite militias into predominantly Sunni cities and their lack of respect for the human rights of minorities in Iraq has proven to be similar to that of ISIS.
Third, international peacekeeping forces have proven to be totally ineffective in situations where they are supposed to protect a population from aggression by terrorist organizations and rogue regimes.
UNDOF and UNIFIL at Israel’s northern borders are good examples of “peacekeeping” forces that remained passive or even fled their positions as soon as hostilities started.
This happened during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and in 2012 when Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra set up camp in the vicinity of the Israeli border on the Golan Heights in Syria and UNDOF “peacekeepers” fled to Israel.
Nicholson cited Israel as an example of a persecuted people that “secured territory” and named the Kurds who have already established autonomy in Syria and Iraq and aspire an independent state as well.
Both peoples are regarded by Philos as natural partners and allies for the Christians when their protected homeland would become a reality.
Exactly for this reason it would be more logical to drop the idea of a separate entity for what is left of the Christian community in Iraq and instead support the idea of increasing Kurdish Christian cooperation that could include embedding a Christian entity in the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq.
The Kurds have already proved they can be trusted with protecting the Iraqi Christians.
They absorbed tens of thousands of Christian refugees in their autonomous entity and helped them to defend themselves by giving them military training and by aiding them to establish their own militia.
The Christian militia already liberated a village in the Mosul area at the beginning of September and is expected to take part in the offensive that aims to drive Islamic State out of Mosul.