United States Rep. Frank Wolf repeatedly has tried to raise awareness of the atrocities Christian and other religious minorities are facing in Iraq, noting in numerous addresses to his fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives that the efforts of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to drive them from their homeland is “genocide” and a “crime against humanity.”
In at least six addresses to his fellow legislators the last three weeks, Rep. Wolf noted that the world would witness annihilation of an ancient faith community from the lands they have inhabited for centuries if immediate action to provide assistance was not taken.
On Friday, U.S. jetfighters hit Islamic State artillery positions in northern Iraq, the first of what is expected to be a series of American strikes meant to halt the extremist advance on the Kurdish capital of Erbil.
President Barack Obama, whom Wolf has pleaded with for a show of support for Christians in the Middle East, announced the airstrikes Thursday night, and Pentagon officials confirmed they had taken place Friday.
Wolf, who is a Presbyterian and Republican House member from Virginia, addressed the action taken by the administration in a statement released Friday.
“The actions announced by the president last night (Thursday) are a positive first step – but these initial actions can’t be the only steps this administration takes,” he said. “Since the fall of Mosul in mid-June, Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities have been systematically targeted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The humanitarian aid and targeted airstrikes announced last evening should be followed with a robust effort by the administration to provide assistance to the Kurdish government – including allowing them to sell their oil in order to have the resources to defend their territory and defend the Christians and other religious minorities who have sought their protection.”
While noting these initial steps taken to assist Iraqi Christians and other minorities, Wolf spoke of the need to take precautions related to the national security of the United States and protection of its citizens.
“I appreciate that the administration finally acknowledges that genocide against Christians and other minorities is occurring in the region,” Wolf observed. “In addition to acknowledging that genocide is taking place, we must also be mindful of the threat to our national security by the thousand or more foreign fighters — including more than a hundred Americans — who have linked up with ISIS, and can travel back and forth to their home countries with ease. This is one of the most significant national security threats in years. The administration must do everything possible to protect the American people from these threats, including seeking any legislative changes to prevent radicalized westerners from threatening the homeland.
“The U.S. and our allies should no longer underestimate the threat and brutality of the ISIS terrorists. From this point forward, the administration should do everything in its power to prevent more Christians and religious minorities in Iraq from becoming victims of this genocide and make every effort to disrupt and repel ISIS.”
Despite the airstrikes, Obama said Thursday that American troops would not return to fight in Iraq, where they already have fought an eight-year war on terror, emphasizing, “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq because there is no American military solution to the crisis in Iraq.”
Obama added, “We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide.”
In addition to the airstrikes, the United States also dropped relief supplies to members of the ancient Yazidi sect, tens of thousands of whom are massed on a desert mountaintop seeking shelter from fighters who had ordered them to convert or die.