PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #3958/01 2950819
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 220819Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7617
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 003958
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/15/2016
SUBJECT: NINEWA: ASSYRIAN PATRIARCH VISIT AND PROPOSAL FOR
Classified By: Ninewa PRT Leader James Knight. Reasons 1.4(b) and (d).
This is a Ninewa Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) message.
1. (C) The Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the
East and his primary non-clerical interlocutor in
Iraq, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister
of Finance and leading Kurdistan Democratic Party
(KDP) member Sarkis Aghajan Mamando 'Sarkesi',
concur that Assyrian Christians enjoy unprecedented
freedom from persecution and opportunity in the KRG.
To assure these benefits become permanent, Sarkesi
-- tacitly supported by the Patriarch -- strongly
advocates the establishment of an autonomous
Assyrian homeland carved out of the Ninewa Plain
under the protection of the KRG. Sarkesi, like
other KRG leaders who advocate incorporation of all
historically Kurdish areas into the KRG, is
unconcerned about social or political disruption
upon establishment of such an area. End summary.
Home again . . .
2. (C) His Holiness Mar ('Blessed') Kh'nanya Dinkha
IV, Catholicos Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic
Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, began this
visit to Iraq 17 Sep 2006 -- his first return to
Iraq since moving to Chicago in 1980 to escape
rising repression of Christians in Iraq. Mar
Dinkha's monthlong visit was sponsored on a personal
basis by Sarkesi. Mar Dinkha was joined on this
pilgrimage by other ranking Assyrian clerics,
including the Metropolitan Bishops of Baghdad, Dahuk
and Russia, North America, and Lebanon and Jordan.
3. (C) PRT Leader Knight and COL Kenneth Lull,
Deputy Commander for the 25th Infantry Division
Tactical HQ (Forward), met Mar Dinkha at Sarkesi's
private residence in Erbil 12 Oct. This meeting was
scheduled to review circumstances of Christians in
northern Iraq and the evolution of Christian
communities in this area. COL Lull has 25th ID
engagement responsibility for Christian issues in
Ninewa and the KRG. The Metropolitans noted para
(2) also attended.
. . . since things are well in the KRG . . .
4. (C) Mar Dinkha was lyrical in his praise for the
freedom from persecution his flock enjoys in the
KRG, and observed that during this visit he met KRG
President Barzani and the Mufti of Erbil, as well as
leaders of all Christian communities in the KRG
(Note: mostly Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Roman
Catholics, as well as a small Evangelical group.
Assyrians and Chaldeans share roots, but the
Chaldean church recognizes the authority of the
Pope, while Assyrians consider Mar Dinkha the Pope's
peer. End note). He emphatically pointed to
Sarkesi's patronage as the key to Assyrians' good
circumstances in Dahuk and Erbil. He emphasized his
church's 2000-year history and the Assyrians' 7000
years (sic) in what is now northern Iraq, and their
difficult experience in recent and historical times.
. . . thanks to Sarkesi . . .
5. (C) COL Lull pointed out that he is Task Force
Lightning DCO BG Wiercinski's delegate for Iraqi
Christian issues. COL Lull noted that he has
visited several Christian areas in Ninewa, and has
made contact with Assyrian Democratic Movement
representatives. Mar Dinkha responded energetically
that COL Lull should instead 'go to the source' and
speak directly to Assyrians. He pointed
enthusiastically at Sarkesi, insisting that he is
the key individual who 'knows Assyrian issues'. Mar
Dinkha was equally dismissive of Assyrian-American
associations and the Assyrian Academic Society -- in
response to a Team Leader query on their roles, Mar
BAGHDAD 00003958 002 OF 003
Dinkha answered vaguely that he 'had heard of them'.
Mar Dinkha's translator and secretary (Fr. Georgeese
Tanoor, also resident with Mar Dinkha in Chicago)
interjected that they 'held picnics' to raise money
for Assyrians in Iraq.
6. (C) Mar Dinkha declined to answer a Team Leader
query regarding conditions for Christians in Ninewa
Province, referring the question to Sarkesi.
Sarkesi echoed Mar Dinkha's evocation of the golden
Assyrian past, but lamented the persecution
Assyrians have endured from Muslims, Christian
Crusaders, and Jews. At present Christians in Mosul
city are under constant intimidation, and to a
lesser extent elsewhere in Ninewa province. He
noted the 11 Oct murder by beheading and
dismemberment of an Assyrian priest kidnapped in
Mosul, and pointed out that every church in Mosul
has been damaged by bombings. Sarkesi found this
situation particularly tragic since Mosul is the
cultural capital of Assyria. (Note: Mosul is the
site of the Assyrian city of Nineveh. End note.)
7. (C) The Assyrian Metropolitan for Baghdad (Mar
Gewargis Sliwa) interjected that Christians are
leaving Bagdad in great numbers owing to the
violence there. Both he and Sarkesi pointed out
that most have fled in the first instance to Jordan
or Syria; those resettling in Dahuk Province and the
Ninewa Plain are have arrived via Syria.
. . . but Assyrians need a homeland
8. (C) Sarkesi continued that he and his fellow
Christians believe that Coalition forces had been
'sent by God' to Iraq. However, ongoing persecution
and intimidation of Christians and their prospects
once Coalition forces depart require establishment
of an autonomous Assyrian region. Sarkesi
elaborated that the Assyrian heartland is between
the Tigris and Great Zab rivers, extending from
their confluence to the Turkish border. Within that
area, he proposes an Assyrian district on the Ninewa
Plain, in the area bounded by al-Qosh, the eastern
edge of Mosul, Qara Qosh, and Ayn Sifni (Shikhan
district). (Note: This entire area is currently
part of Ninewa Province. End Note.)
9. (C) Sarkesi continued that he would seek
autonomy for this region on par with that currently
enjoyed by the KRG. He is confident that he will
elicit support of KRG leaders for this proposal,
including underwriting the autonomy he considers
essential to preserve the Assyrian people and their
10. (C) Team Leader Knight responded that the USG
wants Iraq to be as Iraqis wish it to be, and that
we support political arrangements that are fair and
reflect national Iraqi consensus. However, no
effort to carve out homelands for specific ethnic or
sectarian groups from mixed areas has been peaceful.
TL Knight asked how reoccupation of traditional
Christian land and villages could be done without
significant resistance from those now resident in
those areas. Sarkesi responded that he expected
Arabs and others would willingly return to their
areas of origin, adding that he expected some form
of compensation would be offered.
11. (C) Mar Dinkha was as circumspect regarding
events and trends in Ninewa as he was effusive in
his praise for the KRG. It is not clear whether he
visited any Christian communities in Ninewa, but he
left commentary on areas outside the KRG to his lay
brother Sarkesi. However, he was quick to identify
Sarkesi as the only appropriate interlocutor for
Coalition and USG representatives for Assyrian
Christian matters. It is clear Mar Dinkha considers
the Assyrian-American Society (IAS), the Assyrian-
American National Federation, and similar U.S.-based
advocacy groups essentially irrelevant. Similarly,
he apparently considers the Assyrian Democratic
BAGHDAD 00003958 003 OF 003
Movement a vanity party that does not speak for
12. (C) In his pursuit of Christian welfare,
Sarkesi shares his Kurdish compatriots' indifference
to disruptions his territorial program might cause.
To the extent that it is pursued, it will be
perceived by Ninewa's Sunnis and non-Christian
minorities as another facet of Kurd expansionism in
Ninewa, and will feed the possibility of violent
reaction to Kurdish expansionism.
13. (C) This meeting was devoted almost entirely
devoted to Christian issues and only tangentially
addressed Sarkesi's significant role in the KDP and
the KRG's government. On other occasions Sarkesi
has privately expressed reservations about the KDP
as a governing party and its management of the KRG.
Nonetheless, he maintains that the KDP remains the
best vehicle for his own priorities, including
economic recovery of the KRG and protection of
Assyrian Christians. One example of this
ambivalence emerged in this meeting, when TL Knight
asked how his program for a Christian autonomous
region fits within the larger Kurdish agenda for
'disputed territories'. Sarkesi expressed dismay at
the headlong rush of the KDP to include disputed
territories as part of Kurdistan in the revised
14. (C) Sarkesi has been the major promoter of
resettlement of Assyrians and Chaldean Christians in
areas which will constitute his proposed Assyrian
homeland. He has expended a significant portion of
his very large personal fortune to assist Christians
to relocate to the KRG and the Ninewa Plain,
including construction of several hundred homes and
providing a USD 100- monthly stipend for families
without other income. His efforts as a benefactor
of Iraqi Christians have elicited recognition by
Pope Benedict, who named him a Knight Commander of
the Order of Saint Gregory the Great in August 2006.
Sarkesi maintains a low profile on such matters, and
specifically asked that the USG be discreet in
sharing information pointing to his personal role as
a benefactor of Christian communities in the north.
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