Against the backdrop of the 9.0-magnitude man-made earthquake that was the disastrous US pullout from Afghanistan, two Christian leaders, Pastor Johnnie Moore and Juliana Taimoorazy, convened a news conference last week under the auspices of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. With the participation of Jameel Chomer, country director of the Yazda organization, via Zoom from Iraq, we released an open letter to the president of the United States urging him not to repeat the Afghanistan humanitarian debacle in Iraq.
Signed by Chomer and Taimoorazy, founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, it read in part:
"Mr. President, we urge you to resist pressure to withdraw all troops from Iraq. Recent blood-soaked history has shown that without such a presence, the history of Assyrians and Yazidis on their ancient lands would end."
Related: Timeline of ISIS in Iraq
Related: Attacks on Assyrians in Syria By ISIS and Other Muslim Groups
Today, there are only a reported 2,500 US soldiers left in Iraq. But for the battered and depleted Assyrian Christians and the Yazidis, two minorities who live side-by-side peacefully, a total pullout by the US could mean the demise of two ancient peoples in the Nineveh plains.
In 2003, about the time of the invasion of Iraq, there were 1.5 million Assyrian Christians, who are among the world's oldest Christian communities, in the world. Today, there remain 150,000 Assyrian Christians in their homeland. The numbers of Yazidis shrank from 600,000 to 400,000.
The greatest disaster for both was the ascendancy of ISIS, the world's most brutal terrorist groups. ISIS was able to fill a void left by the US; a void with beheadings, murders, pillaging and rapes. That void was created when, in 2011, then-President Obama decided to remove all 45,000 remaining US forces from Iraq. On November 29 of that year, then-Vice President Joe Biden declared during an official visit to Iraq: "We are embarking on a new ... and a comprehensive relationship between the United States and Iraq as sovereign partners." Biden made the remarks after meeting with then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi officials.
Apparently, ISIS never got the memo.
The bottom line is that the US created a vacuum that enabled the terrorist group to plunder, pillage, murder and rape its way through Iraq.
Beyond the havoc and suffering it unleashed in Syria, in 2014, ISIS took the key Iraqi city of Mosul and seized towns and villages in the Nineveh plains. The Associated Press reported: "Thousands of Christians found themselves fleeing once again the militants' advance, taking refuge in Iraq's northern Kurdish region or leaving the country. Over the next few years, the extremists killed thousands of Iraqi civilians from a variety of religions. They also destroyed ... monasteries, mosques, tombs, shrines and churches in Syria and Iraq."
"The IS juggernaut and the long war to drive the militants out left ransacked homes and charred or pulverized buildings across the north. Christians in the Nineveh plains fled the IS onslaught and many of those who returned dream of resettling abroad," according to the AP.
Meanwhile, ISIS fighters attacked the Iraqi town of Sinjar in August 2014 -- home to the Yazidis. More than 30,000 Yazidi families are stranded in the Sinjar Mountains. A Yazidi lawmaker reported that 500 men have been killed, 70 children have died of thirst and women are being sold into slavery. The horrific suffering of that people was just beginning.
Throughout that period, the world also watched in horror as ISIS would broadcast the beheadings of American, British and Japanese journalists. ISIS would unleash deadly far-flung terrorist attacks from Paris and Nigeria.
Eventually, the US would rush back troops to Iraq to quell ISIS. And a semblance of stability eventually returned to the decimated areas.
Yet on July 27, Joe Biden, now president, announced the remaining symbolic US forces will be leaving Iraq again "for good." If, G-d forbid, that happens, it will take more than a prophet and a whale to save our friend Jameel Chomer from the clutches of a rejuvenated ISIS. Why should we care? Jameel served as an interpreter and cultural advisor for the US army for almost six years in Iraq and has been desperately trying to get his family to the US for years. Sound familiar?
We can only pray that President Biden and his military and foreign policy brain trust will reconsider such a move in the wake of the disaster now facing Afghanis of all faiths and sects not aligned with the Taliban's medieval brand of Islam.
If President Biden doesn't cancel that move, two historic peoples -- the Assyrian Christians and Yazidis -- will be no more. And the keys to Nineveh plains will surely be scooped up by Iran with a long coveted strategic prize -- an unfettered route to the Mediterranean Sea and a new powerful front to threaten the very existence of another people, the nation of Israel.