By The Hill
An Iraqi militia force and political party have registered to lobby political officials in Washington as part of a trend of using U.S. lobbying tools to bypass perceived obstacles in Baghdad.
Both the Assyrian Democratic Movement — a political party for ethnic Assyrians in Iraq — and crowd-funded security forces called the Nineveh Plain Protection Units will be represented by the Nineveh Plain Defense Fund, a nascent nonprofit in Illinois.
The defense fund “is supportive of policies that would provide financial, logistical, and training support directly to the Nineveh Plain Protection Units of Iraq,” it says in a pair of federal filings released last week, “as well as policies that would provide financial, logistical, humanitarian, and economic development support directly to the indigenous ethnoreligious minorities of the Nineveh Plains of Iraq and their non-governmental organizations.”
The security forces are built around ranks of volunteers, who have rallied to defend the minority ethnic Christian group from the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The growth of the Nineveh Protection Units’ ranks was spurred in part by a crowd-funding campaign in the U.S. and Europe, which sought to bolster Christians in the fight against ISIS.
The group has also turned to Washington for support in the face of what critics have called bureaucratic intransigence in Baghdad.
The strategy is similar to that of minority Sunni Muslims in Iraq, who have lobbied Washington for direct support after feeling shut out by the Shia-dominated central government.
In a newsletter earlier this year, the Restore Nineveh Now Foundation, which has links to the Nineveh Protection Units, claimed to have won a major victory with the inclusion of a mention that Assyrians could be at risk from ISIS in annual defense policy legislation. “It is a huge step forward,” the organization said. “Not only were Assyrians listed specifically, by name, but their security forces were singled out, identified as a must-have part of the defense of the Nineveh Plain.”
—Megan Wilson contributed.