World | Thu Mar 17, 2016 11:06am EDT
Islamic State Committed Genocide
militants lead what are said to be Ethiopian Christians along a beach
in Wilayat Barqa,
in this still image from an undated video made available on a
website on April 19, 2015.
WASHINGTON | BY ARSHAD MOHAMMED
Washington D.C. March 17, 2016____ The Islamic State militant group has committed genocide
against minority Christians and Yazidis as well as Shi'ite Muslims, U.S. Secretary of State
John Kerry said on Thursday, a finding that
is unlikely to greatly change U.S. policy toward the group.
fact is that Daesh kills Christians because they are Christians. Yazidis
because they are Yazidis. Shi'ites because they are Shi'ites," Kerry said, referring
to the group by an Arabic acronym, and accusing it of crimes against humanity
and of ethnic cleansing.
(genocide - murder of entire ethnic
While the genocide finding may make it easier
for the United States to argue for greater action against the group, it does
not create a legal obligation on the United States to do more.
On Wednesday, a State Department
spokesman Mark Toner said: "Acknowledging that
genocide or crimes against humanity have taken place in another country would
not necessarily result in any particular legal obligation for the United
Islamic State militants have swept through
Iraq and Syria in recent years, seizing control of large swathes of territory
with an eye toward establishing jihadism in
the heart of the Arab world.
The group's videos depict the violent deaths
of people who stand in its way. Opponents have been beheaded, shot dead, blown
up with fuses attached to their necks and drowned in cages lowered into
swimming pools, with underwater cameras capturing their agony.
Today, Thursday, U.S. President Barack
Obama has ordered air strikes against
the group but has not made any large commitment of U.S. troops on the ground.
"It may strengthen our hand getting
other countries to help. It may free us against some (legal) constraints, but
the reality is that when you are fighting somebody, you don't need another
reason to fight them," said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East
program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank.
Kerry argued that the United States has done
much to fight the group since the start of air strikes in 2014, but did not
directly answer a question on why the Obama administration had not done more to
Historians have asked the same question about
Darfur and Rwanda, both places where the United States also concluded that
genocide had taken place.
Islamic State militants have exploited the
five-year civil war in Syria to seize areas in that country and in neighboring
Iraq, though U.S. officials say their air strikes have markedly reduced the
amount of territory the group controls in both.
On-again, off-again peace talks got under way
this week in Geneva in an effort to end the civil war, in which at least
250,000 people have died and millions have fled their homes. A fragile
"cessation of hostilities" has reduced, but not ended, the violence
over the last two weeks.
U.S. lawmakers urged Kerry last year to make
a determination on whether atrocities committed by the militant group against
Christians and other religious groups amounted to genocide.
The State Department earlier had predicted it
would miss a deadline set for Thursday on this decision.
Republicans, who control the U.S. Congress, have been pressuring the Democratic Obama
administration to call the militants' atrocities in Iraq and Syria acts of
genocide. This week, one chamber, House of Representatives, passed a resolution labeling the group's
violence against religious and ethnic minorities as genocide, war crimes and
crimes against humanity.
A U.S. administration has not made a genocide
finding since 2004, when it determined genocide had occurred in Darfur and that
the government of Sudan was responsible.
Asked if the genocide finding was likely to
accentuate a view held by some that the West is engaged in a battle with Islam,
a senior U.S. official noted that Kerry's determination included Shi-ite
Muslims as well as Christians and Yazidis.
"A very large Muslim group is included
in this," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The secretary isn't just singling out one group that
has political support in the United States," he added, referring to Christians.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)
Related Coverage › U.S.'s Kerry expected to find IS committed genocide against Christians, others: source