Convert or Die

By: Bridget Creel, Special Report Summer Associate

In response to a deadly ultimatum delivered by ISIS, thousands of Iraqi Christians have left their homes to seek safety from religious persecution.

Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, was captured by ISIS in June and the extremists have threatened and even harmed all inhabitants who do not practice Islam. 

This weekend, the Islamic State terror group (ISIS/IS) delivered a statement to Christians that gave them the choice between converting to Islam, paying a tax or fleeing their ancient homeland. The offer was time sensitive and if they failed to choose by Saturday, July 19, ISIS said there would be “nothing for them but the sword.”

Christians who were not willing to compromise with the militants fled Mosul. Before they were able to officially depart, ISIS demanded that they be stripped of all valuable belongings, leaving most Christians with nothing but remnants of their clothing.

Christians are not the only ones affected by the acts of ISIS. ISIS is responsible for the destruction of mosques and shrines, causing other religious minorities to flee Mosul as well.

Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri Al-Maliki, called for governmental support for the homeless Iraqis who were forced to leave Mosul. He said that this specific event demonstrates "the extreme criminality and terrorist nature of this group.”

Although many have moved away, some Iraqi Christians are facing the alternatives. Several Christians have converted to Islam and those that choose to stay, refuse to abandon their religious beliefs.

Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Mouche told the Washington Post, “If we all leave, it sends the message that there is nowhere safe for Christians to live in Iraq — and this worries me. I’m not a vagabond. This is my home, and I will die here if necessary.”

President Obama Proposes $500 Million To Aid Syrian Rebels

The White House sent Congress a $500 million request Thursday for a Pentagon-run program that would significantly expand previous covert efforts to arm rebels fighting both the Sunni extremists and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

If approved by lawmakers, the program would in effect open a second front in the fight against militants spilling over Syria's border and threatening to overwhelm neighboring Iraq.

President Obama has long been reluctant to arm the Syrian opposition, in part because of concerns that weapons may fall into extremist hands. But administration officials say the U.S. has grown increasingly confident in recent months about its ability to distinguish the moderate rebels from the more extremist elements that include the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has stormed into Iraq and captured much of the northern part of the country.

Jennifer Griffin has more tonight on Special Report

ISIS: What's Next?

A picture is emerging of consistent and persistent warnings by the intelligence community about ISIS and a failure to heed or act on the warnings with congressional sources telling Fox air strikes a month ago when ISIS was still in camps on the Syrian border were a missed opportunity. 

Sunni extremists took over a border crossing between Iraq and Syria over the weekend leaving ISIS's threat closing in on the country. Yesterday, Syria reportedly responded with air strikes, killing 50+people. 

After a classified briefing late Tuesday, Senators described ISIS as a direct threat to the US, warning that Jordan is likely next as well as the Balad air base, Iraq's largest and former HQ for US forces. For now, the United States is taking a less aggressive approach, but pressure continues to mount against a growing regional threat

Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Iraq earlier in the week to meet with leaders and encourage a more inclusive government. Today he is in Brussels to attend a NATO meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Iraq. Kerry has presently ruled out US air strikes--

James Rosen is traveling with Secretary Kerry and will have more for us tonight on Special Report. 

Women in Combat?

Military plans would put women in most combat jobs including SEALS, Army Rangers

 

Published June 18, 2013

| Associated Press

 

WASHINGTON –  Military leaders are ready to begin tearing down the remaining walls that have prevented women from holding thousands of combat and special operations jobs near the front lines.

 

Under details of the plans obtained by The Associated Press, women could start training as Army Rangers by mid-2015 and as Navy SEALs a year later.

 

The military services have mapped out a schedule that also will include reviewing and possibly changing the physical and mental standards that men and women will have to meet in order to quality for certain infantry, armor, commando and other front-line positions across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Under the plans to be introduced Tuesday, there would be one common standard for men and women for each job.

 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reviewed the plans and has ordered the services to move ahead.

 

The move follows revelations of a startling number of sexual assaults in the armed forces. Earlier this year, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said the sexual assaults might be linked to the longstanding ban on women serving in combat because the disparity between the roles of men and women creates separate classes of personnel -- male "warriors" versus the rest of the force.

 

While the sexual assault problem is more complicated than that, he said, the disparity has created a psychology that lends itself to disrespect for women.

Under the schedules military leaders delivered to Hagel, the Army will develop standards by July 2015 to allow women to train and potentially serve as Rangers, and qualified women could begin training as Navy SEALs by March 2016 if senior leaders agree. Military leaders have suggested bringing senior women from the officer and enlisted ranks into special forces units first to ensure that younger, lower-ranking women have a support system to help them get through the transition.

 

The Navy intends to open up its Riverine force and begin training women next month, with the goal of assigning women to the units by October. While not part of the special operations forces, the coastal Riverine squadrons do close combat and security operations in small boats. The Navy plans to have studies finished by July 2014 on allowing women to serve as SEALs, and has set October 2015 as the date when women could begin Navy boot camp with the expressed intention of becoming SEALs eventually.

U.S. Special Operations Command is coordinating the matter of what commando jobs could be opened to women, what exceptions might be requested and when the transition would take place.

 

The proposals leave the door open for continued exclusion of women from some jobs if research and testing find that women could not be successful in sufficient numbers. But the services would have to defend such decisions to top Pentagon leaders.

 

Army officials plan to complete gender-neutral standards for the Ranger course by July 2015. Army Rangers are one of the service's special operations units, but many soldiers who go through Ranger training and wear the coveted tab on their shoulders never actually serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment. To be considered a true Ranger, soldiers must serve in the regiment.

 

In January, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Dempsey signed an order that wiped away generations of limits on where and how women could fight for their country. At the time, they asked the services to develop plans to set the change in motion.

 

The decision reflects a reality driven home by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where battle lines were blurred and women were propelled into jobs as medics, military police and intelligence officers who were sometimes attached, but not formally assigned, to battalions. So even though a woman could not serve officially as a battalion infantryman going out on patrol, she could fly a helicopter supporting the unit or be part of a team supplying medical aid if troops were injured.

 

Of the more than 6,700 U.S. service members who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 150 have been women.

 

The order Panetta and Dempsey signed prohibits physical standards from being lowered simply to allow women to qualify for jobs closer to the battlefront. But the services are methodically reviewing and revising the standards for many jobs, including strength and stamina, in order to set minimum requirements for troops to meet regardless of their sex.

 

The military services are also working to determine the cost of opening certain jobs to women, particularly aboard a variety of Navy ships, including certain submarines, frigates, mine warfare and other smaller warships. Dozens of ships do not have adequate berthing or facilities for women to meet privacy needs, and would require design and construction changes.

 

Under a 1994 Pentagon policy, women were prohibited from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level. A brigade is roughly 3,500 troops split into several battalions of about 800 soldiers each. Historically, brigades were based farther from the front lines, and they often included top command and support staff.

 

Last year the military opened up about 14,500 combat positions to women, most of them in the Army, by allowing them to serve in many jobs at the battalion level. The January order lifted the last barrier to women serving in combat, but allows the services to argue to keep some jobs closed.

 

The bulk of the nearly 240,000 jobs currently closed to women are in the Army, including those in infantry, armor, combat engineer and artillery units that are often close to the battlefront. Similar jobs in the Marine Corps are also closed.

 

Army officials have laid out a rolling schedule of dates in 2015 to develop gender-neutral standards for specific jobs, beginning with July for engineers, followed by field artillery in March and the infantry and armor jobs no later than September.

 

Women make up about 14 percent of the 1.4 million active U.S. military personnel. More than 280,000 women have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or neighboring nations in support of the wars.



Read more: /us/2013/06/18/military-plans-would-put-women-in-most-combat-jobs-including-seals-army-rangers/print#ixzz2Wb5DHYvQ

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