The growth of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), al-Nusrah Front, and other associates of al-Qaeda represents a grave threat to the people of Syria and the people of Iraq, as well as to the region and the larger international community.
Through its rapid and brutal advance across northern Iraq, ISIL has secured heavy weapons and used them to push back Iraqi and Peshmerga forces trying to defend towns and cities. It has seized some of the country’s precious natural resources and taken control of critical infrastructure. Now ISIL has the ability to block the flow of electricity and control access to the water supplies on which people depend.
ISIL and the al-Nusrah Front have used Syria’s civil war and Iraq’s instability to claim territory into which they attract others bent on violent extremism – and territory from which they can potentially launch attacks across the region and to other parts of the world.
This is the new front of the terrorist threat, and one with a devastating human cost. ISIL’s recent attacks in Ninewa have displaced an estimated 200,000 people, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons in Iraq since January to a staggering 1.4 million.
The stories that have emerged from ISIL’s bloody wake are the stuff of nightmares. Christians have been driven from their homes with the threat of “convert or die.” I met earlier today with a bishop who was in Iraq just after the fall of Mosul. He described one ISIL attack on a hospital: one Christian patient who refused to convert was shot in the head; two who agreed to convert had their throats slit, denounced as infidels.
The Yezidis have been buried alive, beheaded, or killed in mass executions, and thousands were forced to flee to Mount Sinjar, where many ultimately perished from thirst or exposure to the elements. The Iraqi Human Rights Ministry estimates 500 Yezidi women and girls have been abducted; and there are reports of them being raped, trafficked, and killed.
ISIL and al-Nusrah continue to carry out similar atrocities in Syria, and they do so with seeming pride, posting gleeful images to the internet. ISIL also continues to confiscate much needed humanitarian aid bound for thousands of civilians in eastern Syria. They have no shame. None whatsoever.
Today’s resolution, which the United States is proud to co-sponsor, represents the Council’s strong, unified position that all Member States must disrupt the terrorist financing and foreign fighter recruitment networks that are fueling the violence perpetrated by ISIL, the al-Nusrah Front, and other associates of al-Qaeda in the region.
In imposing sanctions on six individuals, this resolution demonstrates the Council’s sense of urgency and its willingness to take concrete action against those who carry the guns, and those who supply them.
Unchecked, the current terrorist financing and the foreign fighter recruitment networks will only prolong the terror we’ve seen unleashed in the region. The numbers of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, as well as their source nations, are unprecedented, reportedly as many as 12,000 have participated in the conflict. And the return of radicalized, battle-hardened jihadists to their home countries or other vulnerable destinations has the potential to widen the scope of the violence. This resolution should help stem the flow of money and people and I urge all Member States to expend every effort to help achieve these goals.
The United States is proud to have taken unprecedented steps to protect and assist the Yezidis who were trapped on Mount Sinjar. Today, we join with others on the Council in calling on all parties to prevent or stop the widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian populations because of their ethnic background, political views, religion, or beliefs.
We believe that Iraq’s future political success will depend on preserving its unity and maintaining its vibrant diversity. We are encouraged by Prime Minister al-Maliki’s decision to support Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi. This peaceful and historic transition of power demonstrates that Iraq is on its way to developing the kind of fully inclusive government it will need if it is to unify all Iraqis in the fight against ISIL. The international community must support Iraq to this end.
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