Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Profitable Pilgrims: Religious Tourism & Saudi-Iranian Relations




Iran's cancellation of pilgrimage flights to Saudi Arabia is an indication of deteriorating relations, as well as the unlikely role of religious tourism as foreign policy tool. Iran is agitating against Riyadh in the wake of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. Consequently, the Saudi religious tourism industry could face a multi-billion dollar loss in the event of an Iranian-led Hajj boycott.

Last Monday saw Iran announce a suspension of pilgrim flights to Saudi Arabia, following allegation of sexual assault by Saudi security personnel against two Iranian youths undertaking the Umrah – a lesser Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. The Umrah is an optional pilgrimage, yet some 500,000 Iranians alone undertake the journey every year. Iran's suspension of Umrah flights to Saudi Arabia is ostensibly a response to the aforementioned allegations; however, the regional geo-political context is the main driver behind Iran's actions.

The suspension of flights comes at a time of rapidly deteriorating Saudi-Iranian relations as Tehran grows concerned about the Saudi-led, largely Sunni Arab force in Yemen which is targeting the pre-domimately Shi'a Houthi rebels. It is in Iran's interests to characterize the conflict in Yemen as a sectarian one, in order to undermine Saudi Arabia as well as bolster its own self-proclaimed role of Shi'a protector. Moreover, concerns about Shi'a safety on pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia mesh well with wider Shi'a concerns about Saudi actions - either in Yemen or via funding for ultra-conservative Sunni sects – aimed against Shiites.

While Iran cannot openly confront Saudi Arabia; which enjoys American protection as well as carte-blanche from Washington to fight instability and terrorism in the region, other avenues are open for Tehran. Iran could follow suit with a Hajj boycott, with a carefully timed ban potentially costing Saudi Arabia billions. This could take to form of merely an Iranian boycott, or a larger, Iranian inspired, Shi'a boycott in response to Saudi actions in Yemen. Such an action would be a moral rebuke: half South African-style divestment, half Olympic boycott, a la Moscow 1980.

Saudi forces fight inside Kaaba complex

Interestingly, there is historical precedent for such a move by Iran. In 1987, 400 people, including 275 Iranians pilgrims were killed in a clash with Saudi security forces following an Iranian led anti-U.S / Israel protest in Mecca. The 1987 Mecca Incident led to a halving of Iranian pilgrim visas by Riyadh, which in turn resulted in Iran boycotting the Hajj for three years from 1988-1990. Both 1987 and 2015 share common themes: Iranian concern for pilgrims, anti-Saudi sentiments due to Riyadh's ties to the West, and a sectarian foreign policy resulting in a religious travel ban.


Profitable Pilgrims: Religious Tourism worth Billions

The termination of pilgrim flights to Saudi Arabia highlights the interesting role of the religious tourism industry both within the Saudi economy and in Riyadh's foreign policy. The plight of the two youths mentioned above is but the latest in a series of attacks against Shi'as during pilgrimages in Saudi Arabia: as seen here, here, and here. Such instances provide Iran an excuse with which to launch its anti-Saudi agitation. This undermines the Saudi economy, but also the claim of King Salman's title of 'Custodian of the Two Mosques' - a major source of legitimacy for the Saudi monarchy.

Religious pilgrimage is one of the major sectors Saudi Arabia's non-oil economy, comprising 2% of GDP. In 2014, Saudi Arabia garnered $8.5 billion from the Hajj alone; half of the $16 billion Saudi religious tourism industry. Religious tourism itself is responsible for 80% of the 17.2 million visits logged by the Saudi tourism industry in 2014. Consequently many domestic and international hospitality firms operating in Saudi Arabia have dedicated religious tourism brands and chains.

The Kaaba is dwarfed by the Mecca Clock Tower Hotel
Image Credit: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com

Currently, in order to increase pilgrim traffic, Saudi Arabia is investing billions in upgrading hotel and mosque infrastructure in Mecca. The $3.2 billion Jabal Omar Development in Mecca is erecting 40 hotel towers with 160,000 rooms. Similarity, the Grand Mosque is also under-going a $20 billion renovation designed to increase hourly pilgrim traffic as well as increase praying space.


Lack of Flexibility puts Religious Tourism Industry at Risk:

Not only the scale, but also the structure of the Saudi religious tourism industry offers a means for Iran to agitate against Riyadh. Muslim countries are assigned pilgrim quotas many months in advance by Saudi Arabia; with pilgrims themselves needing many months to prepare. Pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia must do so via government approved travel agents, hoteliers and other service providers. Pilgrims from outside the Gulf face even more hurdles, needing special visas, papers, and vetted guarantors.

These bureaucratic measures, leave the religious tourism industry with little flexibility. With approximately 62,000 pilgrim visas in 2014, Iran was one of the larger pilgrim source nations. An 11th hour, Iranian boycott would effectively void these visas, as other countries have long ago received their quotas and acted accordingly. Even if Riyadh scrambled to create a face-saving, expedited approval process for Saudi nationals major problems remain.

Even if all vacant places were filled, Saudi Arabia would still lose billions. This is because international pilgrims spend on average four times more than Saudi pilgrims ($4633 vs. $1319). Moreover, other Muslim nations chafe under Riyadh's quotas, arguing that the limits are subject to the whims of Saudi foreign policy more than the needs of recipient nations. A huge boost in Saudi numbers would only further anger those critical of Riyadh's gatekeeper status. Iran's boycott and the loss of 500,000 visitors is, in this context, a multifaceted threat: undermining Saudi Umrah revenues, potentially setting the stage for a Hajj boycott, delegitimizing Saudi stewardship of holy sites, raising Shi'a concerns over pilgrim safety, and tarnishing Riyadh's image abroad.


Originally written for Global Risk Insights 

Monday, 13 April 2015

The Rise of ISIS & Human Rights Concerns in Iraq



Historical Background:

Modern Iraq as Historically Hamstrung:

The borders of modern Iraq have no grounding outside that of foreign imperial convenience. For centuries the concept of 'Iraq' was not a fixed one, as the region encompassed the hinterlands of the Ottoman Empire. Control over the area was delegated to regional tribal allies of the Ottomans. Iraq's eastern border roughly aligns with the semi-stable border between Ottoman Arabia and Qajar dynasty Persia, (later Iran). Following the First World War, the Ottoman province of Iraq was taken over by the British Empire and administered as a colonial mandate.

As a result it was Britain which drew the country's modern boundaries; the noticeably straight lines which constitute the eastern and southern borders. These borders arose from British efforts to distribute land between Iraq and Transjordan, the UK's other mandate. Iraq's borders were also due to compromises between the British and the emergent Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (after 1932) as well as French controlled Syria. These borders saw the inclusion of Shi'a, Sunni, and Christian Arabs, Kurds, Kurdish speaking Turkic Yazedi and Turkmen within an a-historical political entity.

The British mandate administration sought to control Iraq by empowering local elites to rule and preserve British interests. Britain, following Ottoman precedent, cooperated closely with the Sunni minority, appointing members of the Sunni elite to government and ministerial positions.1 This focus started decades of Shi'a and Kurd exclusion from the Iraqi government. During the regime of Saddam Hussein, the government continued to promote the Sunni minority to positions of power.

This preference fostered animosities between the Sunni minority government and the Shi'a majority populace as well as minority Kurds, as both groups were discriminated against and repressed. The Hussein government ruled Iraq from 1979-2003, committing numerous crimes against humanity against the Shi'a and Kurdish populaces, most notably the Halabja gas attacks which killed between 3200-5000 Kurds in 1988.2


Post-Saddam Iraq:
Following the fall of Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime during the 2003 American led invasion of Iraq, the new transitional government was altered to allow for greater representation of Shi'a, Kurdish, and other minorities. Despite this arrangement, sectarian violence remained a critical issue as the increasingly Shi'a dominated government began to discriminate against Sunnis. This anti-Sunni bias was indirectly promoted by the United States as its de-Ba'athification program,3 which targeted Saddam era government officials who due to Saddam's pro-Sunni bias, were overwhelmingly Sunni.

Similarly the disbanding of the Iraqi army (itself Sunni controlled) led to hundreds of thousands of unemployed Sunni men. De-Ba'athification effectively left the government in Shi'a hands, as well as creating hundreds of thousands of unemployed and angry Sunnis.4 Consequently, during 2004-2005 sectarian strife escalated as many marginalized Sunni's became radicalized. During the same period a host of Shi'a and Sunni militias / terrorist groups began an insurgency in Iraq. This insurgency was initially focused on attacking American and coalition forces, but eventually causalities from sectarian attacks overtook troop deaths. The failure of the Shi'a led government headed by Nouri al-Maliki to engage with Sunnis combined with his cooperation with coalition troops saw an increase in Sunni attacks against Iraqi government and Shi'a community assets. 

Given that the majority of Muslims are Sunnis, the majority of insurgents and terrorists operating in Iraq – especially foreign mujaheddin – were also Sunni. Consequently the Shi'a controlled government found itself facing largely Sunni opposition resulting in the conflict becoming defined along religious divisions. The spate of revenge attacks accelerated as government backed Shi'a militia death squads killed Sunni civilians in retaliation for previous Sunni suicide attacks, thereby engendering further cyclical violence.5

In an effort to prevent Sunni marginalization, the American government supported the Sunni Awakening Movement. Initially begun in 2005 the Awakening Councils were a coalition of tribal sheikhs who created militias to protect Sunni areas. These Awakening Councils oversaw the creation of an ad hoc Sunni military force within in one year. These militias were then paid by the United States to renounce violence against Coalition troops, assist the government, and fight against other more radical Sunni groups.6 

In October 2008, the United States transferred the 54,000 Awakening Councils fighters to the payroll of the Iraqi government. The Awakening Council distrusted the Shi'a dominated Maliki government, while Nouri al-Maliki saw the Councils as a Sunni opposition in the making. Despite U.S. urging to integrate the Awakening Councils into the now Shi'a dominated military, Maliki largely refused, only incorporating some of the Council fighters.7


Sunni-Shia Discord Heightens, sets Stage for ISIS:

As previously mentioned de-Ba'athification was a controversial decision which led to hundreds of thousands of unemployed and disenfranchised Sunnis. Despite the U.S. rescinding the policy in 2004, the new Shi'a dominated government was seen as continuing to promote de-ba'athification, which led to an effective “de-Sunnification” of government.8 This anti-Sunni stance, combined with Maliki's refusal to fully integrate the Awakening Councils, led to the souring of Sunni views on the government. 

In 2011 the Maliki government failed to acquire a status of forces agreement with the United States which would have seen thousands of U.S. troops remain in Iraq (the last U.S. forces left Iraq in December 2011). After the departure of U.S. troops, Maliki increasingly focused on purging government officials he suspected of not being loyal to him. Loyalty was prized over competency, which resulted in capable officials being ousted as well as the hemorrhaging of even more Sunni technocrats, since Sunnis tended to hold low opinions of Maliki.9

This deterioration of Sunni-government relations accelerated from 2012 onwards with Sunni attitudes shifting from wariness to outright hostility. The incomplete incorporation of the Awakening Councils had failed to redress Sunni economic concerns, resulting in further political marginalization. 2012-2013 saw growing Sunni discontent manifesting as protests and sit-ins. Anbar tribal leader Ali Hatem stated that the Shiite government implemented “arrest, torture [and] refused to honour the agreement brokered by the Americans to incorporate the Awakening Councils that defeated Al-Qaeda into the security forces.”10 

Moreover on December 30th 2013 the government used excessive violence to disperse Sunni demonstrators in Anbar province cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. During the same period Maliki undertook actions to remove Sunni officers from sensitive government and security posts, as well as a crackdown on mainstream Sunni and Kurdish leaders seen as too pro-American. Maliki also consolidated executive power, refusing to assign ministers of interior or defence, instead occupying the posts himself.11 Maliki's purging of civilian and military leaders deemed insufficiently loyal undermined the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) leadership, weakening the nascent organization.12

The Rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS):

Ayman Zawahri, leader of the core [Al-Qaeda] group has long disagreed with [ISIS leader] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, warning him that ISIS's habit of beheading its opponents and posting such atrocities on video was giving Al-Qaeda a bad name.13

Whereas ISIS14 may be a new player in Iraq, its core supporters and organizational framework are not, having been in the country since the American invasion in 2003 as Al-Qaeda in Iraq. The meteoric rise of ISIS in the last two years can be traced to the “Breaking the Walls” campaign of 2012-2013. This campaign was a coordinated series of attacks on prisons and detention centres which released thousands of veteran jihadists. These former prisoners were members of various disparate groups, yet following their jail break teamed up with their liberators. 

ISIS incorporated these veteran fighters, gaining significantly heightened tactical, logistical, recruitment and training expertise. This initial wave of ISIS supporters utilized the porous border with war-torn Syria to move unhindered in the desert hinterlands on the Syria-Iraq border. This allowed the group to gain fighting experience against the Assad regime in Syria as well as loot Syrian military hardware and recruit from the large pool of foreign mujaheddin already in the country.

ISIS deploys a large fleet of agile light 4x4 vehicles which allow it to rapidly move through Iraq's western and southern desert, employing swarming tactics and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) initially only against small settlements and government posts. Having acquired territory in Syria, ISIS was able to gather strength from sympathetic rebel factions and attack into Iraq.15 From January to June 2014, ISIS raided into Iraq, quickly surrounding government forces and cutting them off from reinforcements.

These blitzkrieg tactics were doubly effective because the central government was slow to react, instead focusing on its oil revenue dispute with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). On June 8th 2014, two days before ISIS captured Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, Kurdish leaders contacted Baghdad warning them, but the Maliki government paid no heed. One Peshmerga (Kurdish militia) official recounts that;

We'd been telling [the central government] for months that something was happening in the desert between [the ISIS held Syrian city of] Raqqa and Mosul...Maliki repeatedly dismissed our concerns and suggestions that forces deploy further out from population centres to disrupt what they were clearly planning. Instead he just accused us of attempting to take control in the north and asked the Americans for more jets that he could use as leverage against us in the oil dispute.
16

Central government failings were mirrored by Iraqi military failings as well. The Iraqi Security Forces were not shaped by the U.S. to fight a broad, capable, and sophisticated insurgency on the scale of ISIS. Moreover the ISF had been undermined by Maliki's purges of his opponents. When government forces did finally engage ISIS there was widespread panic and tens of thousands of troops either fled,17 leaving behind their new U.S. provided equipment, deserted or defected to ISIS.18 

Defectors to ISIS have been predominantly Sunni, thereby further homogenizing the ISF and increasing Shiite dominance in the formal military. These defectors have further swelled ISIS ranks, which has seized hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military hardware, notably logistical and heavy weapons systems, as well as $430 million in newly minted currency. ISIS now possesses tanks, armoured personnel carriers, artillery pieces, and even six American black hawk helicopters,19 and some Iraqi fighter jets.20

On June 29th 2014, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the creation of Islamic State, heralding it as the resurrected religio-political entity of the Caliphate, and proclaiming himself as caliph.21 ISIS is not merely a terrorist organization, it is state-building project which seeks to acquire and hold territory. ISIS has a structured bureaucracy and local administration network helped in large part by Sunni technocrats ousted by American and Maliki de-Ba'athification efforts. 

ISIS has also implemented a taxation system and created an intelligence service. Islamic State also controls many oil and gas assets, such as the Ajil oil field, which provide millions of dollars a day in revenue.22 Currently ISIS controls an area the size of Jordan and a population of five million people.23 ISIS is engaging in a program of targeted expulsion and extermination of Shi'a in its controlled territories, forcing the renunciation of doctrines considered heretical and executing those who do not comply.


Major Actors & Groups at Risk: Sectarianism and the Spectre of Genocide

Sunni and Shi'a Trapped by Cyclical Sectarian Violence:

Sunni-Shi'a tensions have continued to increase in 2014 as the actions of ISIS further split the two groups, as Sunni dominated ISIS targets Shi'as. The greatly diminished Sunni presence in the ISF and the corresponding overwhelmingly Sunni composition of ISIS have created a situation in which political aspirations and armed forces membership have become firmly tied to religious identity. ISIS's high quality propaganda campaign regularly distributes execution videos of mainly Shiite ISF personnel and civilians in large part to further provoke the Iraqi government. 

This leads to more reprisals against and greater discontent among non-aligned Sunni.24 ISIS has benefited from Sunni alienation from the central government under Nouri al-Maliki, with Sunnis viewing ISIS as a better vehicle to protect their interests. The Maliki government has been a big obstacle in integrating Sunnis into the government, yet Maliki's replacement, Haidar al-Abadi who took power in August 14th 2014 is still faced with massive hurdles. Many Sunnis say that Abadi needs to amend the de-Ba'athification and anti-terrorism laws, widely seen as having been abused under Maliki to persecute Sunnis.25

As a consequence of ISIS violence, many of the dormant Shi'a militias which had been brought into the political process in the late 2000s, have begun to protect Shi'a areas and are working in conjunction with the largely Shiite ISF, further polarizing the conflict by unifying large sections of the Shi'a community behind the government fighting largely Sunni insurgents. Influential Shi'a figures such as Ayatollah Ali Sistani have called on fellow Shi'as to counter Sunni violence; with tens of thousand Shi'a fighters engaging in offensives against ISIS in Ramadi and Tikrit.26 

Since these Shi'a militias are operating alongside the ISF they enjoy total immunity with regards to their dealings with Sunnis. Amnesty International has reported that Shi'a militias such as the Badr Brigades, Kata'ib Hezbollah and Saraya al-Salam have all been criminalized, engaging in extortion, harassment, kidnappings and executions of Sunnis in government controlled areas. A common tactic has emerged which involves ransoming captured Sunni “fighters” and executing them after receiving payment.27 This has facilitated widespread Sunni flight from heterogeneous districts to solely Sunni areas, further segregating the country into Shi'a and Sunni enclaves.

The hunt for ISIS fighter has led to widespread killings, as militias consider any fighting age Sunni men (18-50) as potential ISIS fighters in disguise. While Sunnis in government areas are under serious threats from militias, displaced persons from central and northern Iraq seeking refuge in the government controlled south are also in serious danger. Shi'a militias such as Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq – hardened from years of fighting U.S. forces – are manning checkpoints on the major roads leading from embattled cities such as Samara and Tikrit.28 Shi'a militias are orchestrating targeted killings of Sunnis fleeing ISIS held territory. Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq members manning a checkpoint on the road to Baghdad explained that “If we catch 'those dogs' [Sunni] coming down from Tikrit we execute them; in those areas they are all working with [ISIS].”29


Iraq's Kurds: Fighting ISIS, Hampered by Central Government:

In reality, Iraq is partitioned now”
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani30

The above quote from Massoud Barzani highlights the current reality in Iraq where sectarian violence has resulted in the creation of an ISIS controlled Sunni central, government controlled Shi'a south and Kurdistan Autonomous Region in the north. The KRG has governed this semi-autonomous northern region since 1970 and has achieved successfully greater control over Iraqi Kurdistan following the Gulf War and 2003 Iraq war. Following the flight of the Iraqi army, Kurdish forces moved to fill the vacuum, coming to control mixed Kurd-Arab regions officially outside KRG sovereignty.

Aided by cross border support from the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) which operates in Syria and Turkey, KRG forces now control important oil rich areas in the north. According to foreign relations analyst Hasan Kanbolat, “ISIS's advancement in the region may expand the KRG's territory and strengthen its control over oil fields. Al-Maliki [and now al-Abadi] would also need to deal with ISIS and would leave the KRG alone.”31 The KRG has - like the central government - become embroiled in fighting ISIS. Consequently, the KRG has toned down talk of separation (which had included the threat of an impending referendum), seeking a united front against ISIS. Yet the KRG still wants the central government to cede Kurdish occupied territories and pay for the Peshmerga militias.32

Kurds now control about twenty percent of Iraqi territory, including land which they had long claimed but had been “Arabized” by Saddam Hussein.33 Kurd controlled areas now include Kirkuk, and important oil hub in the north, and a city which Kurds describe as their Jerusalem. The KRG has long sought independence from Iraq, and with increased instability in recent months has sought to capitalize on the deteriorating situation. As previously mentioned the KRG and central government have been in conflict over the allocation of oil revenue.

Theoretically the KRG is supposed to be receive eighteen percent of the central government budget, yet payments were decreased and have stopped in recent months. In such circumstances the fall of Kirkuk to the KRG could be a warning of an emerging civil war for the country's resources. This view is echoed by Hunain al-Qaddo, an ethnic minority member of the Iraqi government, who states that “civil war is now becoming an inevitability.”34

While the KRG ostensibly took Kirkuk to prevent ISIS control, the Kurds are unlikely to hand over the city and oil infrastructure to Baghdad. The KRG controls an area containing some 45 billion barrels of oil, reserves which would see an independent Iraqi Kurdistan have the tenth largest oil reserves in the world.35 In recent weeks the West has sought to arm and utilize the Kurdish Peshmerga militia to counter ISIS in northern Iraq, where 50,000 Kurdish fighters are currently stationed. An important flashpoint is around the Mosul dam where Kurdish fighters are engaged in fierce battles with ISIS. 

The dam is old, in ill repair, and many fear that if it falls to ISIS, the group will cut off water to millions or destroy the dam, which would obliterate Mosul and flood Baghdad.36 This has led to poor KRG-Baghdad ties and significant risk of violence, because “if the Kurds unilaterally take Kirkuk, there will be openings for greater political conflict, because nobody will be in agreement on the borders. It will be a hotly unstable, unrecognized political entity, in which now Sunni Arabs and Kurds are fighting over resources and borders.”37


The Yazidis: ISIS Implements Ethnic Cleansing

Regrettably the information indicates that they are not even given the choice of life or conversion but they are being treated as a group to be eliminated from the face of the earth”
Gyorgy Busztin, deputy special representative of the UN Secretary General in Iraq

The Yazidis are a Kurdish entho-religious group of between 800,000 and 1,000,000 individuals living in Iraq. Yazidis combine elements of Sufi Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and ancient Mesopotamian beliefs. Yazidis believe that God entrusted the world to seven angels; the most exalted of which is known as the 'peacock angel' and is praised for not bowing to Adam. Yazidis also consume and sell alcohol and this combined with their polytheistic tradition has made them prime targets for ISIS which considers them beyond redemption.38 

The parallels between the actions of the Yazidi's peacock angel and those of the fallen angel Lucifer have also perpetuated rumours of the Yazidis as devil worshipper, fuelling ISIS hatred. This is not the first time Yazidis have suffered at the hands of ISIS, which in its earlier incarnation as Al-Qaeda in Iraq detonated a truck bomb in a Yazidi village in 2007 killing over 800 people.39

In recent months tens of thousands of Yazidi have taken refuge on Sinjar Mountain, their historical refuge from persecution. In August 2014, the Yazidi were surrounded by ISIS and were dying of exposure, thirst and starvation. According to UNICEF some 25,000 children were also stranded on the mountain. Despite many thousands managing to later escape the mountain, sleeping in fields and abandoned buildings in northern Iraq, 4000-5000 (disabled, small children, ill, injured and elderly) remain on the mountain too weak to escape.

Currently around 100,000 Yazidi refugees have poured into the Kurdistan province of Dohuk.40 The ISIS advance towards the mountain saw at least 500 Yazidis killed in Sinjar town in Ninawa Province, with some victims buried alive and several thousand women sold into slavery.41 With regards to this widespread kidnapping of women, ISIS English language propaganda has stated that, “one should remember that enslaving the families of the non-believers and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of Islamic law.”42


Iraqi Christians:

In two, three, four years Christians will not be here because ISIS [will have] killed us”
Safa Jamel Bahnan, former Mosul resident43

Iraq is home to over a million Christians, many of whom live in ISIS controlled areas. The radical Islamist ideology of ISIS seeks the elimination of Iraqi Christian populations from the Caliphate and as such have instituted a program of forced conversion or death. On July 18th ISIS modified it's stance on Christians stating that they must convert or pay a religious tax (jizyah), yet executions of Christians continue with few if any seeking to remain in ISIS territory.44 

An estimated 100,000 Christians have fled in the wake of ISIS advances across the plain of Mosul since June. Thousands of Christians have also fled to the Kurdish capital of Erbil, with most seeing immigration as the only viable option, short of foreign troops intervening in Iraq. Iraqi Christians are continuing their exodus from the country which has continued since the 2003 invasion, with Canada being viewed as one of the most desirable destinations.45

Throughout ISIS territory in Iraq, ISIS has been painting 'N' (the Arabic word for Christians equates to Nasrani or Nazarene) on Christian homes.46 ISIS has also destroyed churches, monasteries, centuries old relics, and even tombstones including the grave of Jonah the Prophet. These actions have led UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to warn that the persecution of Iraqi Christians could constitute a crime against humanity.47 Furthermore, since taking Mosul on June 10th 2014, ISIS have been besieging the Christian town of Qaraqash (pop: 50,000) and nearby villages by blocking their water pipes.48 This has forced many to flee or face dying of thirst as their ancient city is slowly encircled and destroyed by ISIS forces.





Works Cited:


1Liam Anderson & Gareth Stansfield, The Future of Iraq: Dictatorship, Democracy, or Division? (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005), 6.

2BBC News, “On This Day: March 16th 1988: Thousands die in Halabja gas attack,” http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/march/16/newsid_4304000/4304853.stm
 
3“Coalition Provisional Order Number 1: De-Ba'athification of Iraqi Society,” May 16 2003, 
 
4Anthony Shadid, Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War, (New York: Henry Holt & Company) 311-312.

5Peter Beaumont, “Iraq 'Failing to Tackle Death Squads'” The Guardian, September 29 2006, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/sep/29/iraq.topstories3
 
6Alissa J. Rubin, “In a Force for Iraqi Calm, Seeds of Conflict,” The New York Times, December 23 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/23/world/middleeast/23awakening.html?pagewanted=all
 
7Bradley Brooks, “Sunni Fighters Need Political Role,” USA Today, December 24 2007, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/topstories/2007-12-23-1748979433_x.htmv
 
8“Law of the Supreme National Commission for Accountability and Justice” January 1 2008. http://ictj.org/sites/default/files/IraqGovt-Iraq-Translation-Law-2008-English.pdf
 
9“State Building – The Islamic State's Trajectory in Iraq,” Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst 14, no. 8 (2014).

10“Islamic State Ascendant – Iraq Struggles to Tackle the Proto-Caliphate,” Jane's Terrorism & Security 
Monitor 14, no. 8 (Sept. 1 2014).

11“Islamic State Ascendant – Iraq Struggles to Tackle the Proto-Caliphate.”

12“Two Arab Countries Fall Apart: The Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria,” The Economist 411, no. 8891 (June 14th 2014), http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21604230-extreme-islamist-group-seeks-create-caliphate-and-spread-jihad-across
 
13“Two Arab Countries Fall Apart,”

14Note - For the sake of brevity and consistency, this paper uses the term 'ISIS' as an umbrella term for the evolving organization bearing the successive names of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, and Islamic State.

15“State Building – The Islamic State's Trajectory in Iraq.”

16“Islamic State Ascendant – Iraq Struggles to Tackle the Proto-Caliphate.”

17Patrick Cockburn, “National Armies Don't Run Away – Iraq's Did,” Independent.ie, October 20th 2014, http://www.independent.ie/world-news/middle-east/national-armies-dont-run-away-iraqs-did-30355128.html
 
18Martin Chulov, “Iraq faces abyss as its military melts away,” The Guardian, June 13 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/13/baghdad-faces-the-abyss-after-its-military-melts-away
 
19“Two Arab Countries Fall Apart: The Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria,”

20Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith, “ISIS fighters training to fly captured planes by Iraqi pilots,” The Independent, October 17th 2014, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-fighters-training-to-fly-captured-planes-by-iraqi-pilots-9802109.html
 
21“State Building – The Islamic State's Trajectory in Iraq.”

22“Two Arab Countries Fall Apart: The Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria,”

23“State Building – The Islamic State's Trajectory in Iraq.”

24“Islamic State Ascendant – Iraq Struggles to Tackle the Proto-Caliphate.”

25“A War that Crosses National Boundaries: Iraq, Syria and the Islamic State,” The Economist 412, no. 8901 (August 23 2014), http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21613343-iraq-and-america-have-pushed-back-islamic-state-it-will-take-much-more
 
26“State Building – The Islamic State's Trajectory in Iraq.”

27“Absolute Impunity: Militia Rule in Iraq,” Amnesty International (October 14 2014), http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE14/015/2014/en/17cbb7ef-7ca4-4b5a-963e-661f256fddb0/mde140152014en.pdf, 6.

28Simeon Kerr, “Shia and Sunni Sectarian Divide Fuels Iraq Crisis,” Financial Times (June 15th 2014), http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/ed19b828-f49d-11e3-bf6e-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3GhyWLPFO
 
29Patrick Cockburn, “Iraq Descends into Anarchy, Shi'a Militias 'Abducting and Killing Sunni Civilians in Revenge for ISIS attack,'” The Independent (October 14th 2014), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/shia-militias-abducting-and-killing-sunni-civilians-in-revenge-for-isis-attacks-9792838.html
 
30Michael Petrou, “A new map of the Middle East: While Iraq is being torn apart by violence, the Kurds are moving to carve out a homeland, once and for all,” Macleans 127, no. 32 (August 18 2014): 30-32.

31Mehmet Akif Okur, Ali Nihat Ozcam, Faruk Logoglu, “Turkish commentary says Kurds may boost West ties over ISIS/ISIL headway in Iraq,” BBC Monitoring Europe (June 12 2014).

32“A War that Crosses National Boundaries: Iraq, Syria and the Islamic State,”

33“The Kurds and Iraq: A Winning Hand,” The Economist 411, no. 8892 (June 21 2014), http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21604628-kurds-are-benefiting-mess-iraq-will-independence-follow
 
34“Shi'a and Sunni Sectarian Divide Fuels Iraq Crisis,”

35Robert Bailey, “The End of Iraq?” Gulf Business (August 20 2014) http://gulfbusiness.com/2014/08/end-iraq/#.VEVWasmulu4
 
36Sam Jones, Richard McGregor, and Erika Solomon, “Kurds retake crucial Iraq dam in morale boosting victory” Financial Times (August 19 2014), http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/0bed3772-26a1-11e4-8df5-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3GhyWLPFO
 
37Petrou, 30-32.

38Loveday Morris, “Islamic State says it is buying and selling Yazidi women, using them as concubines,” The Washington Post (October 12 2014), http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/islamic-state-says-it-is-buying-and-selling-yazidi-women-using-them-as-concubines/2014/10/12/d904756d-10ab-47b9-889c-d3b00343470f_story.html
 
39Jane Arraf, “Islamic State Persecution of Yazidi Minority Amounts to Genocide, UN says,” Christian Science Monitor (August 7 2014), http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2014/0807/Islamic-State-persecution-of-Yazidi-minority-amounts-to-genocide-UN-says-video
 
40Liz Sly and Craig Whitlock, “Most Yazidis have been rescued from a besieged mountain in northern Iraq,” The Washington Post (August 14 2014), http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/yazidis-still-reported-trapped-on-mountain-in-northern-iraq-despite-us-assessment/2014/08/14/d85337fb-c5d2-4b82-b53a-410467e0db90_story.html
 
41“Islamic State reportedly kill at least 500 ethnic Yazidi people in the north of Iraq,” Jane's Terrorism Watch (August 12 2014)

42“Islamic State says it is buying and selling Yazidi women, using them as concubines,”

43Matthew Fisher, “Iraq's Christians Facing Sword Again,” Star-Phoenix (October 6th 2014), http://www.thestarphoenix.com/life/Iraq+Christians+facing+sword+again/10266034/story.html
 
44Jason Motlagh, “Iraq's Waterless Christians: The Campaign to Expel a Religion,” Bloomberg Businessweek (July 22 2014), http://www.businessweek.com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/articles/2014-07-22/iraqs-waterless-christians-the-campaign-to-expel-a-religion
 
45“Iraq's Christians Facing Sword Again,”

46Ramsay F. Dass, in Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 33, no. 6 (September 2014): 58.

47Hugh Tomlinson, “ISIS warns Iraq's Christians: Convert or Die,” The Times (July 22 2014): 26 http://www.thestarphoenix.com/life/Iraq+Christians+facing+sword+again/10266034/story.html
 
48 “Iraq's Waterless Christians: The Campaign to Expel a Religion,”