Baghdad Bishop: Iraqi Christians Fear ‘New Rise’ of Islamic State

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Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D.17 Oct 201920 An Iraqi bishop says there is a “strong fear” among the people the Islamic State may return, thanks to the Turkish offensive against the Kurds in the north of Syria.

Bishop Basil Yaldo, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad and the closest collaborator of the patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, told AsiaNews an intervention by the international community is “fundamental” to apply the necessary “pressure on Turkey” to curb the offensive. Bishop Yaldo said that Turkey’s military operation launched by Ankara in northern Syria has ignited fears of a “new rise” of the Islamic State. “We have already experienced this and there is a strong fear that it may return,” he said. According to the bishop, the Turkish program against the Kurds in northern Syria is will almost certainly cause repercussions in neighboring Iraq, which also fears a new influx of war refugees that it has no means of receiving. “For the moment, the situation is still under control, but the picture is complicated because even here the situation is not peaceful,” Yaldo said, as can be seen from recent “demonstrations in Baghdad and in other areas of the country.” In the end, the bishop said, it is incumbent upon major world powers to put pressure on Turkey, but it is “only the poor people, the civil population both in Syria and in Iraq, who pay the cost.” In response to appeals from U.S. President Donald Trump, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Ankara “will never declare a ceasefire.” Erdogan has said he does not fear U.S. sanctions but meanwhile U.S. vice-president Mike Pence and secretary of state Mike Pompeo are traveling to Ankara to negotiate a truce. Erdogan also intends to fly to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who allegedly seeks to prevent a war between Turkey and Syria. “Yesterday we spoke with the Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, Msgr. Antoine Audo,” Bishop Yaldo told AsiaNews, and “he described a situation of great confusion to us.” The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition composed largely of Kurdish fighters, has accused the Turkish military and its proxies of genocide against the Kurdish people, saying they employ tactics “similar to ISIS.” Kurdish leaders have called the endeavor to replace indigenous Kurdish populations with largely Arab refugees an attempt at ethnic cleansing.