Real Clear Politics | Susan Crabtree | Dec. 11, 2019
In the summer of 2014, the vicious Islamic State campaign against Yazidis and Christians in Iraq convinced President Obama to order airstrikes to try to save them from extermination. The Obama administration would officially declare the ISIS slaughter of those same religious minorities a “genocide,” a State Department designation that conveyed the urgency of protecting these groups and maintaining religious freedom and pluralism in Iraq and Northern Syria.
Five years after those ISIS massacres, however, bureaucratic factions within the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development are acting as though the genocide declaration never occurred – even though it made the survival of these religious minorities in the homeland they’ve occupied for more than a thousand years a clear U.S. foreign policy priority.
During the Obama administration career and political appointees shared an aversion to awarding government assistance to local faith-based groups. They largely channeled U.S. funds for rebuilding efforts in Iraq and Syria through the United Nations Development Program, or UNDP, which maintains a “religious-blind” policy that bars funds going to faith-based organizations.
These U.S. officials also aggressively opposed efforts to direct some U.S. funding to help local Catholic Church groups and other religious organizations that were providing almost all of the subsistence assistance to the Christian, as well as Yazidi, communities. The resistance has continued three years into the Trump administration – despite a presidential directive to fund faith-based groups and a year after the unanimous passage in both the House and the Senate of bipartisan legislation requiring the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, to channel some existing funds directly to these religious minority communities.
That legislation, HR 390 – The Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act, co-authored by Reps. Chris Smith, a Republican, and Anna Eshoo, a Democrat — had 47 co-sponsors in the House, including seven Democrats, attracting such political opposites as conservative GOP Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Mark Meadows, as well as liberal Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who is leading the House impeachment charge, and fellow California Democrat Brad Sherman.