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WikiLeaks: Ninewa: Assyrian Patriarch Visit and Proposal for Assyrian Homeland

Posted: Friday, October 14, 2011 at 08:41 PM CT


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06BAGHDAD3958 2006-10-22 08:19 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #3958/01 2950819
P 220819Z OCT 06
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 


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 
Movement a vanity party that does not speak for

BAGHDAD 00003958  003 OF 003  

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. 

Bio note 

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 
regional Constitution. 

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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