Is Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako a religious, political or a military leader of the Assyrian Christian community and forces in Iraq and Syria?

In an interview with Deutsche Welle (DW) German News Agency, Patriarch Louis Sako said that Christians must join the Iraqi Army and the Peshmerga to liberate the Assyria Nineveh Plain. This is the historical heartland of the Assyrian Christians in Iraq and is the location where The Christian Assyrian Army established a forward line of troops (FLOT) on 11 AUG 14.  The Assyrian Army has held the FLOT in the Assyria Nineveh Plain continuously since that date, despite countless heavy attacks from the Islamic State. Patriarch Sako, oddly, did not call for directly arming the Assyrian Army, but he has in the past advocated for the direct arming of the KRG by the Western allies.

Patriarch Sako is asking the remaining members of the Assyrian Christian church and the body of Christ in Iraq to sacrifice themselves once again by dying for the same leaders who abandoned them during the fight for Mosul. Just two weeks earlier these leaders had ordered and carried out the disarming of the citizens of the Assyria Nineveh Plain and their local Assyrian Christian security forces. Thus, when the Peshmerga forces left under the cover of the night just as ISIS attacked, they left the people they were supposed to protect–the people they had disarmed–defenseless before the enemy’s onslaught.

Why Patriarch Sako asking Christian Assyrians to sacrifice themselves for such people? To what purpose? Only God-his superior-truly knows.

Patriarch Sako is asking Christian Assyrians to die for and under the flag of the Sunni Muslim Kurds as well as the Shia or Sunni Iraqi leadership whose ancestors–including community leaders and celebrated hero’s–had carried out the mass killings, persecutions, and forced deportation of innocent Assyrian Christians in 1915, 1918, 1922, 1933, 1940-1945, 2010, and as recently as 2014 in the Khabour River Valley and in the Assyria Nineveh Plain. The effect of these repeated and bloody depredations has been the near-total annihilation of the Assyrian Christians and the expulsion of this ancient Christian people from their historical homelands. Assyrians have a singular significance as speakers of Aramaic-the language of Jesus-and as such they constitute a sort of living “Rosetta Stone” for all those who seek to comprehend the Judeo-Christian legacy for humanity. Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, with all due respect for your lofty ecclesial position, do you realize that the Assyrian Christian people are being subjected to an ongoing genocide while you urge them to serve under those who have no concern for their survival or who are complicit in their destruction and eradication from their historical lands?

The leaders of the Sunni Muslim Kurds have stated publicly and often that their ultimate goal is to establish a greater Kurdistan in Iraq and Syria and under whose banner the Assyrians will be asked to serve and die.  This geopolitical consolidation would require the Sunni Muslim Kurds to seize and occupy the Assyria Nineveh Plain, fly their newly designed flag over the Assyrian historical homeland (just as they did in Sinjar where Yazidis died clearing the city and whose brothers and sisters now have to honor the Kurdish flag in their own homeland thanks to Kurdish fiat). In a very real sense, the Assyrians are being asked to become nothing more than a protection force to secure the economic interests of the Sunni Muslim Kurds after they have cleared the area for their Kurdistan. This also means that the Sunni Muslim Kurds will have to resettle the area with a Sunni Muslim Kurdish majority in order to secure the oil fields in the region to sustain their larger Kurdistan aspirations and economic objects in the future. Pursuant to this goal, they have already begun moving Kurdish (but not Yazidi) families into Sinjar. Just three weeks ago in a “private” Kurdish meeting a Sunni Muslim Kurdish leader advocated on behalf of the Assyrians given they are fighting for the KRG and others in the region.  Chapter Chairman of the PDK, Esmat Rajab, replied that “we do not need to talk about the dead.”  He added that they would have achieved their objectives upon completing the takeover of the Nineveh Plains region.

All of which prompts the question: has Patriarch Sako asked for a written apology from the Chapter Chairman of the PDK, Esmat Rajab, for those statements, and if not when is he planning on doing so?

As mentioned, Patriarch Sako has stated that the Assyrian Christians must also serve under the Iraqi Army, which is currently under Shia Arab leadership linked to Iran through Baghdad.  This action would require the Assyrians militias to sign up with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to receive the money required to increase their numbers.  The forces will be under Hashd Al-Shabi, which is an Iranian-aligned militia–and which may not survive the next three months as a power broker in Iraq.

NEC-SE asks its readers and the media to ask Patriarch Sako and his inner circle (both Sunni Muslim Kurds and Iraqi Shia) to speak on the record concerning whether he has considered the unthinkable, namely, the real possibility of the Sunni Muslim Kurds, Iraqi Shia, and other Iraqi Sunni forces having to compete with each other for territory, resources, and power in Iraq as they are now doing; and, in the process, being only too happy to conscript experienced Christian Assyrian fighters to their respective force … which would result in Assyrian Christians fighting and killing each other to achieve the objectives of their non Assyrian Christian commanders.

Three days ago, the KRG sent Kurdish Peshmerga forces to Syria through Turkey to fight against other Sunni Muslim Kurdish forces who are aligned with Russia and against Turkey.  These Sunni Muslim Kurdish forces clashed in the boarder towns of Turkey and Syria on Wednesday, just as they had fought each other in Kobani.  In Kobani, the rival tribal forces of the Sunni Muslim Kurds fought each other as they aligned with and fought with ISIS against KRG- paid and administered forces.

While venturing into the arena of military affairs, has Patriarch Sako ever considered that the Muslim Sunni Kurdish forces and the Iraqi Shia or Iraqi Army who fought the Peshmerga in Kirkuk last year would ever use the Assyrian Christians as front line forces to fight each other as they did during the Iran-Iraq War, where 50,000 Christian Assyrians were killed–mostly by being literally shot in the back by the soldiers of the armies in which they served? Christians in Iraq and Syria are grimly contemplating the possibility of a replay of this internecine scenario of blood letting to benefit military factions concerned first with their own religious sects and ethnicities.

Patriarch Sako in the past has not only spoken against Assyrian Christians asserting their own autonomy (even though they did so on the Mosul battlefield where the Peshmerga abandoned them) but has also spoken against maintaining an independent christian armed force to secure their territory in the Assyria Nineveh Plain. He has stated that all Assyrian Christians must sacrifice themselves for Iraq without ever asking Iraq or the KRG why they abandoned the battlefield of Mosul, why they took the weapons away from the Christian police in the large Assyrian Christian town of Qaraquosh (population 70,000) two days before ISIS clearing operations, and why they left in the middle of the night without warning the Assyrians.  Nor has he asked the Kurdish leadership why they are naming a street in Ankawa, an Assyrian area under KRG administration, after Simko, the Muslim Sunni Kurd who assassinated Mar Benjamin, the Patriarch of the Assyrian Chruch.  Has he considered how he looks to his “followers” who did not elect him as a leader of their nation and who never agreed that he should speak for the christian military commanders on the ground who are fighting and dying on a daily basis in Syria and Iraq?  Has he ever considered, realized, or heard the novel suggestion from those in his flock or have it suggested to him from outsiders that the only dignified cause at this juncture is to call energetically for admitting Assyrian Christians to the negotiation table as an ethnic and religious group within the structure of a federalized Iraqi and Syrian governance on a footing as equals with other ethnic groups such as the Yazidis? To say yes to a federalized Iraq with a homeland for Assyrian Christians and Yazidis and to urge that it be established, recognized, and be assigned adequate resources under their control and autonomy is not to deny Muslim Sunni Kurdish, Shia Arabs, or Sunni Arab national aspirations. Why not focus international attention on the issue of equality for all groups in Iraq and Syria instead relegating non-Muslims to the status of second-class citizens?

Why has the Patriarch not written, on his church´s letterhead and with his signature affixed, a letter demanding that the KRG and the Iraqi Government directly arm the Assyrian Army with the U.S. or NATO signature weapons which they receive on a weekly basis? Why has he not written the same letter demanding that the U.S. and NATO arm the Assyrian Army–the same Assyrian Army which has been holding the forward line of troops since 11 AUG 15 after the KRG and the Shia military leadership abandoned the battlefield in Assyrian Nineveh Plain which has resulted in the current genocide? Has he, while assuming a political mantle of the very nation for which he was not elected, asked for the prosecution of the commanders of both the KRG and the Iraqi Army who, committing treason, abandoned the battlefields to ISIS in the Assyria Nineveh Plain, which in turn has caused the genocide of the church that funds his coffers and provides him with a paycheck? Has he as a political leader of the Christians in Iraq asked why ISIS oil is still moving south of the Sinjar line through the KRG into Turkey on Lebanese-plated trucks to be sold to Europe and make money for ISIS? Has he as a political leader asked why it is that every time the Assyrian Christians and the Yazidids plot the location of all of the kidnappings of their women and children it shows that they had been taken from the KRG administered areas and from Muslim Sunni Kurdish-held areas yet without any Muslim Sunni Kurdish women being kidnapped, raped, or taken for sale in ISIS harems at the same time? Has he asked the KRG leadership why 27 of their 400 plus leaders are members of the Islamic Brotherhood which is the same organization that was collectively removed from its leadership positions in Egypt via a military coup supported by both Christian and Muslim Egyptians? Has he as a political leader asked why it is that Sunni Muslim Kurds have joined ISIS to fight Kurds in Kobani, or why the KRG is committing their own soldiers to fight other Kurds in support of Turkish forces in Syria, which have been linked to supporting ISIS in Syria and Iraq? Has he asked the KRG why 300 plus of their religious affairs department have joined the Islamic State since its establishment in June of 2014?  Has he as a political leader of the Christian community asked why the KRG leadership did not once address the issue of the Assyrian, Yazidi, and other christian genocide when they visited the United States for a week-long discussion of the crisis in northern Iraq while at the same time some KRG leaders were videoed partying in Beverly Hills where they were striking personal deals for their companies as the people in the region died?

As a military leader does Patriarch Sako know that he just signed the death warrant of the Assyrian Army with his statement calling for the Christian forces to join the KRG and the Iraqi Army? When I was fighting in Iraq our U.S. Special Forces dressed in the local garments for some of their key direct action targeting. It was not bad enough that the Assyrian Army was fighting against ISIS in Iraq. Now any of their opposition to include regional competitors who have done everything in their power to remove this independent Christian Army from the Assyria Nineveh Plain have been given the okay to politically and physically remove these men from the territory they hold even if they have to leave the area in body bags (given anyone can now dress as ISIS and attack them while stating that you should have listened to Patriarch Sako).

As a religious leader, he is failing in the mission he has been given and seems willing to allow the eradication of the Assyrians and any other Christian from the landscape for the sake of establishing a future Kurdistan, Shiastan, and/or Sunnistan in the Assyria Nineveh Plain.  As a political leader, he is dividing his people by urging them to serve three different masters in a divided Iraq.  As a spiritual leader, he should concern himself with the spiritual and material well-being of his flock, in as much as he has no understanding of what the independent christian commanders on the battlefield have contributed to the fighting on behalf of the CF forces both in Iraq and in Syria.  He may want to ask the Pentagon’s Office of Strategic Defense (OSD), Central Command (Centcom), and the State Department’s Near East Affairs (NEA) just whom the Assyrian Army has been protecting in the Assyrian community on the ground through unilateral action before he deigns to dispense advice on what Christian military forces should do.

Finally, he should ask himself seriously whom the Assyrian Christians should be fighting for. Should the Muslim Sunni Kurdish and the Iraqi forces fight each other for the control of the oil fields in Kirkuk and on the Assyria Nineveh Plain?  The truth is that both of these armies will probably be fighting each other in the near future, using the same battle-hardened Assyrian troops as they jockey for power and territory in a newly federalized Iraq aligned with the United States and a federalized Syria possibly aligned with Russia.

The Assyrian Christian population in the Middle East has decreased by 90 percent since 2003.  How does Patriarch Sako plan on expanding those numbers if they are fighting each other for others interests in both Iraq and Syria? Could the leaders of the Christians in Iraq and Syria please show themselves capable of understanding the dangerous implications of allying themselves to ethnicities and religious groups whose agenda are entirely distinct and even at odds with the agenda of a free Assyrian Christian and Democratic people?

The Persian language word for “ostrich” translates as “camel bird.” There is a story told in Persian political circles that an ostrich was found once with its head buried in the sand. When a group of people pulled its head out of the sand they said, “Mr. Ostrich we need your help. We have this heavy load, which the people cannot carry, and needs to be taken to its final destination. Can you please help us carry the load?” The ostrich replied, “I am not a camel but a bird. If you want help carrying the load you are asking the wrong animal.” The people than said “Very well then. If you can not help us with the load given that you say you are not a camel can you then please carry a message on our behalf to the final destination so that we can receive the help we need?” The ostrich then said, “Do you not see that I am a camel and not a bird? You are asking me to do something that I am not able to do.”

In political terms, this story was used to describe “leaders” who seem content to remain unaware of the complex ramifications of particular policies. They have figuratively buried their heads in the sand. And when people point this out to them, they find every excuse possible to deny that they do not want to work for the benefit of the very people they are tasked to serve. When these people are asked, “Are you a religious leader?” they reply, “We are all participants in the political process at hand and thus must offer our views and react politically.” Yet, when challenged on their political stance that benefits others they say, “Please, we are religious leaders and cannot meddle in politics.” Sadly the same leaders have been “in the lead” as the Assyrian nation has died. But as long as their financial coffers are filled, do they regard it as a problem that their statements and positions and lack of understanding have placed this nation in dire jeopardy of being utterly annihilated for the sake of the dubious aspirations of others, with little to no concern for their Christian flock’s continued existence?

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