For months, Congress and international rights groups have urged the State Department and the administration to declare that ISIS was committing genocide against Christians. As I have reported, this pressure had been having little if any effect.
The administration refused to call these crimes genocide, even though other religious groups had already received such status from Obama and Kerry. And the Congress had applied pressure and announced an ultimatum.
Secretary of State John Kerry declared Thursday that the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East, after facing heavy pressure from lawmakers and rights groups to make the rare designation.
The announcement was a surprise, at least in terms of the timing. A day earlier, a State Department spokesman said they would miss a congressionally mandated March 17 deadline to make a decision. Yet as the department took heat from lawmakers for the expected delay, the department confirmed Thursday morning that Kerry had reached the decision that Christians, Yazidis and Shiite groups are victims of genocide.
It comes after the House this week passed a nonbinding resolution by a 393-0 vote condemning ISIS atrocities as genocide.
There is no doubt that this was the result of regular and consistent calls from both parties and the international community. As the EU had already made such an announcement, most believed that Obama would never allow such a statement to come while still in office.
The thing that must not be missed here is the fact that this changes little.
Kerry’s finding will not obligate the United States to take additional action against ISIS militants and does not prejudge any prosecution against its members, said U.S. officials.
But baby steps are better than no steps at all.