Iraqi-American Christians blast U.S. policies in Iraq

t a forum featuring a senior State Department official, Iraqi-American Christians blasted the U.S. government for policies they said have devastated Iraq’s minorities.

Upset and frustrated, about 300 metro Detroiters with roots in Iraq, most of them Chaldeans, gathered Thursday night in a banquet hall in Warren where Michael Corbin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, spoke to the crowd. Corbin, a diplomat who was appointed to oversee Iraq’s minority communities, was grilled by an audience that criticized the U.S. for failing to protect Iraq’s Christians.

“It’s going from bad to worse,” said Betsy Nasouri, 52, of West Bloomfield, a Chaldean who attended the forum. “And no one is doing anything about it.”
Nasouri and others said the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and occupation has greatly affected Iraqi Christians, whose numbers inside Iraq have plummeted over the past six years.

Corbin said he couldn’t comment on whether Iraqi Christians were hurt by the U.S.-led war.

“I can’t answer that,” Corbin told the Free Press. “Let’s leave that to the historians.”
Iraqi-Americans at the forum also criticized the U.S. for denying entry to needy Iraqi refugees they said were forced to flee because of the war.

“It’s a humanitarian issue,” said Joseph Kassab, head of the Southfield-based Chaldean Federation of America, which organized the forum along with two other Iraqi-American Christian groups.

During the two-hour forum, Iraqi-Americans voiced their concerns about U.S. policies. Some grew angry as they described the plight of family members and loved ones inside Iraq. Others said that refugees are stuck in Syria and Jordan after being denied entry into the U.S. And those refugees who are admitted into the U.S. are not getting enough assistance for basic items like food, Nasouri said.
After the forum, Corbin said: “I know the frustrations in the community.”

Chaldeans at the forum said the U.S. government is reponsible for the plight of Iraqi Christians.

“The administration is responsible,” Kassab said. “There was a failure in the policy.”
At end of the question and answer session, Iraqi-Americans surrounded Corbin, asking for answers to problems they said family members face inside and outside Iraq as refugees. Corbin was whisked away by assistants and organizers into a backroom as some peppered him with questions and concerns.

“They are on the verge of extinction,” Kassab said of Iraq’s minorities. “We need to see action.”

Michigan is home to the highest concentration of Iraqi Chaldeans in the U.S., many of whom have ties to families in Iraq. Now, some are trying to bring them here as refugees, but many are being denied entry, adding to their frustrations, Kassab said.

Corbin said the refugee issue is “something Congress has to address.”
Nasouri said she wasn’t satisfied with Corbin’s remarks.

“He did not answer” the questions, she said. “Everything he said was, I don’t know. He’s not giving us any hope.”

“They took over our country,” Nasouri added. “They’re pumping our oil. The least they could do is help the refugees.”