Posted tagged ‘USAID’

Trump Directs State, USAID to Bypass United Nations, Deliver U.S. Aid More Directly to Christians, Yazidis In Iraq

October 26, 2017

Trump Directs State, USAID to Bypass United Nations, Deliver U.S. Aid More Directly to Christians, Yazidis In Iraq, Washington Free Beacon, October 26, 2017

Yazidi refugees carry their belongings / Getty

“The United States will work hand in hand from this day forward with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith,” he said. “This is the moment, now is the time, and America will support these people in their hour of need.”

The White House decision is at least six months in the making and comes after several lawmakers and human rights activists have repeatedly argued their case to top officials at the State Department and USAID, which have resisted any change to their “religion-blind” policy of channeling most of the aid money to the United Nations.

That policy, the two U.S. agencies have argued, is “needs-based” and does not give priority to Christians and Yazidis and other religious minorities in Iraq, even though both the Obama and the Trump administrations have publicly declared that both groups, as well as Shiite Muslims and others, have suffered genocide at the hand of ISIS.

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President Trump has issued a White House directive forcing the State Department and USAID to bypass the United Nations and stop its “ineffective” relief efforts aimed at helping Iraqi Christians, Yazidis, and other persecuted religious minorities, and instead to provide the assistance either directly or through “faith-based groups.”

Vice President Mike Pence, in a speech at the In Defense of Christians annual Solidarity Dinner highlighting the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere, announced the directive and lambasted the United Nations, arguing the international body has “often failed to help the most vulnerable communities, especially religious minorities.”

“We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups,” Pence said.

.@POTUS ordered @StateDept to stop funding ineffective relief efforts at @UN & will support persecuted communities thru USAID 

“The United States will work hand in hand from this day forward with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith,” he said. “This is the moment, now is the time, and America will support these people in their hour of need.”

The White House decision is at least six months in the making and comes after several lawmakers and human rights activists have repeatedly argued their case to top officials at the State Department and USAID, which have resisted any change to their “religion-blind” policy of channeling most of the aid money to the United Nations.

That policy, the two U.S. agencies have argued, is “needs-based” and does not give priority to Christians and Yazidis and other religious minorities in Iraq, even though both the Obama and the Trump administrations have publicly declared that both groups, as well as Shiite Muslims and others, have suffered genocide at the hand of ISIS.

Pence said the United Nations has repeatedly denied funding requests from faith-based groups “with proven track records” working most directly with Christians in Iraq to help provide basic necessities.

“Those days are over,” he said. “Our fellow Christians and all who are persecuted in the Middle East should not have to rely on multinational institutions when America can help them directly.”

Pence said the plight of Christians in Iraq and the Middle East more broadly is dire, and that they are on the verge of extinction in northern Iraq, an area where Christian communities have thrived for thousands of years.

ISIS murders and kidnappings have decimated the Christian population in Iraq, which numbered between 800,000 and 1.4 million in 2002 and is below 250,000 now, according to human rights groups.

Pence also repeatedly referred to ISIS and other extremist Muslim terrorist groups as “radical Islamic terrorism” and held them responsible for the genocide against Christians and other religious minorities.

“Let me assure you tonight, President Trump and I see these crimes for what they are: vile acts of persecution animated by hatred for Christians and the gospel of Christ,” he said. “And so too does this president know who and what has perpetrated these crimes, and he calls them by name: radical Islamic terrorists.”

Catholic charities and activists who have spent years urging the Obama administration and now Trump administration to better assist Christians, Yazidis, and other minority communities in Iraq cheered the move and Pence’s strong words.

“A year ago the United States used the right word to describe what was happening to Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. That word was genocide. Tonight, those words were put into action,” said Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus.

“For almost two years, the K of C has warned that Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East have been falling through the cracks in the aid system, and has been urging the United States government to provide aid directly to genocide-targeted communities. We are pleased that tonight, the administration has promised to do just that.”

Anderson added that the “real impact” the new Trump policy would have to help Christians in the Middle East and the survival of minority communities “cannot be underestimated.”

Other activists who helped chronicle the genocide against religious minority communities in Iraq also applauded the move.

Activists who have spent years chronicling the mass slaughter of Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in Iraq cheered the move and Pence’s strong words.

“This is good news and we want to thank President Trump, Vice President Pence, and all those who have been working diligently on this issue,” said former representative Frank Wolf, (R., Va.), who spent decades as a human rights champion in Congress and is now serving as a senior fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.

“This should impact humanitarian aid for those living as internally displaced persons and refugees and stabilization assistance for the Christians and Yazidis returning to areas seized from them by ISIS.”

Wolf recently returned from Iraq and testified earlier this month before both the House and Senate about the dire situation facing Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in Iraq.

The Knights of Columbus, one of the largest Catholic charities, and Aid to the Church in Need, another global Catholic charity, have sent millions of dollars in donations to the Catholic archdiocese in northern Iraq, one of the few groups on the ground working to house and feed displaced Christians and Yazidis and help rebuild their homes.

Stephen Rasche, an attorney for the Catholic archdiocese in Erbil and the director of internal displaced people resettlement programs, in early October accused the U.N. of squandering U.S. taxpayer aid for reconstruction projects.

The aid programs are so mismanaged that some U.S. dollars are going to benefit Iraqis who took over areas that persecuted Christians fled even though the United Nations says the project is aimed at helping Christians, Rasche testified before a House Foreign Affairs panel Oct. 4.

The Washington Free Beacon obtained photos of United Nations Development Program projects in Christian and Yazidi towns in northern Iraq, showing “completed” school-rehabilitation projects that amounted to a thin coat of paint on exterior walls with freshly stenciled UNICEF logos every 30 feet.

Inside the building, the rooms remained untouched and unusable, without running water, power or any furniture, Rasche testified.

Several lawmakers and human rights activists for months have argued that U.S. agencies have a responsibility to intervene more directly and effectively.

Republican Reps. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Robert Aderholt of Alabama, and Chris Smith of New Jersey, along with Democrat Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, recently sent a letter to USAID Administrator Mark Green last week arguing that these communities now face “dire conditions where they desperately need assistance if they are to survive.”

“USAID has an immediate opportunity to partner with entities committee to the appropriate reconstruction of damaged homes and public buildings in several key towns in the Nineveh Plain of Iraq,” they wrote in the letter dated Oct. 12.

“Timely action would address provisions outlined in the genocide declarations and mirror the current administration’s desire to help the survivors,” they argued.

The State Department and USAID repeatedly stood by their religion-blind policy of dispensing aid without giving any priority to Christians, Yazidis, and other U.S.-genocide designated religious minorities in Iraq.

Late last week, a U.S. official told the Free Beacon that State Department and USAID plan to continue their policy of dispensing aid “based on need” and did not address criticism about U.N. corruption or the funds not appearing to help Christians, Yazidis and others on the ground.

“As the world’s humanitarian leader, the United States is committed to providing life-saving assistance to those in need,” the U.S. official said. “When providing the assistance, the United States does not discriminate based on race, religion or creed—we provide the assistance based on need.”

As ISIS is driven from Iraq, the lawmakers and activists argue that it is also critical to U.S. national security that that these indigenous communities are supported to prevent Iran from gaining influence in the region.

“Repatriation has a strategic advantage of heading off potential conflict between the KRG and Baghdad while barring an Iranian land bridge to the Mediterranean, which presently threats to fill the vacuum in the Nineveh Plain created by the removal of ISIS,” the lawmakers wrote. “This land bridge will be occupied by forces loyal to Tehran if security and rebuilding fails to come from other quarters.”

Thousands of Christians in the town of Teleskof who had successfully returned home and were trying to rebuild their community after the area was freed from Islamic forces were forced to flee Tuesdayafter Kurdish forces swarmed the town and engaged in a standoff with the Iraqi army.

Sources in touch with the community said late Wednesday the situation in Teleskof was improving as a direct result of U.S. intervention.

Over the last year, Congress has taken several steps to try to provide direct assistance to the minority populations in Iraq. Earlier this year, Congress allocated more than $1.4 billion in funds for refugee assistance and included specific language to ensure that part of the money would be used to assist Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in Iraq.

The House passed legislation, cosponsored by Smith and Eshoo, that would explicitly authorize the State Department and USAID to direct aid to faith-based entities, such as the Archdiocese of Erbil following congressional delegations to the region.

More recently, the House and Senate have held hearings about the need for the Trump administration to act quickly to get the funds where they are needed.

“We implore you to review proposals from credible organizations on the ground in the region who are committed to these goals, and if deemed worthy, to move swiftly to empower the through available resources to rebuild the region,” they lawmakers wrote.

Update 9:29 a.m.: This post has been updated with comment from the Knights of Columbus.

Reps Push Trump Admin to Bypass U.N. and Help Iraqi Christians, Yazidis Directly

October 18, 2017

Reps Push Trump Admin to Bypass U.N. and Help Iraqi Christians, Yazidis Directly, Washington Free Beacon , October 18, 2017

Church of Mart Shmoni in Erbil / Getty Images

Four House members are pressing the top official of the U.S. Agency for International Development to bypass the United Nations and channel funds intended to help Christians and Yazidis in Iraq directly to Catholic charities and others helping them on the ground.

The urgent push comes amid dire warnings from lawmakers and human rights activists that Christians and Yazidis, already victims of genocide at the hands of the Islamic State, are on the verge of extinction in Northern Iraq, their home for thousands of years.

The lawmakers also point to new evidence of corruption in the United Nations’ process for stabilization projects in Iraq.

Republican Reps. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Robert Aderholt of Alabama, and Chris Smith of New Jersey, along with Democrat Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, sent a letter to USAID Administrator Mark Green last week arguing that these communities now face “dire conditions where they desperately need assistance if they are to survive.”

“Returning Christians, Yazidis, and others to their rightful place will reknit the once rich tapestry of pluralism and diversity that existed in the region—an effort that is essential to any hope of durable stability in Iraq and the region,” they wrote in a letter dated Oct. 12.

USAID did not immediately return an inquiry about the letter.

Fortenberry, Aderholt, and Smith are longtime human rights champions. Eshoo has a personal interest in the mission. She is a Chaldean Catholic and first-generation American. Her mother is Armenian and her father is an Assyrian Christian from Iraq.

The letter is the latest effort by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate, along with human rights activists and Catholic groups, to persuade the State Department and USAID to change the Obama-era policy of directing most of its money to Iraq through the United Nations.

The lawmakers argue that Catholic charities most connected to the communities on the ground are the only groups that have a track record of helping persecuted minorities survive for the last several years and are best positioned to help them return and rebuild. The United Nations, they argue, has little to show for its assistance to these communities.

As the Washington Free Beacon reported earlier this month, photos of the few United Nations Development Program projects in Ninevah show the work being done is mostly cosmetic in nature. This contradicts claims for the United Nations, which has suggested far more substantial work has been done.

Steve Rasche, an attorney for the Catholic archdiocese of Northern Iraq testified before a House hearing that so-called “completed” school-rehabilitation projects in the towns of Teleskov and Batnaya “take the form of one think coat of painting of the exterior surface walls, with freshly stenciled UNICEF logos every 30 feet.”

Inside, he said, the rooms remain untouched and unusable.

U.S. agencies have a responsibility to intervene more directly and effectively, the lawmakers argue, especially after both the Obama and Trump administrations have declared that Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in Iraq are the victims of ISIS genocide.

“USAID has an immediate opportunity to partner with entities committee to the appropriate reconstruction of damaged homes and public buildings in several key towns in the Ninevah Plan of Iraq,” they wrote.

“Timely action would address provisions outlined in the genocide declarations and mirror the current administration’s desire to help the survivors,” they argued.

As ISIS is driven from Iraq, it is also critical to U.S. national security that that these indigenous communities are supported to prevent Iran from gaining influence in the region.

“Repatriation has a strategic advantage of heading off potential conflict between the KRG and Baghdad while barring an Iranian land bridge to the Mediterranean, which presently threats to fill the vacuum in the Ninevah Plain created by the removal of ISIS,” the lawmakers wrote. “This land bridge will be occupied by forces loyal to Tehran if security and rebuilding fails to come from other quarters.”

Congress has taken a number of steps to try to provide direct assistance to the minority populations in Iraq. Earlier this year, Congress allocated more than $1.4 billion in funds for refugee assistance and included specific language to ensure that part of the money would be used to assist Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in Iraq.

The House passed legislation, cosponsored by Smith and Eshoo, that would explicitly authorize the State Department and USAID to direct aid to faith-based entities, such as the Archdiocese of Erbil following congressional delegations to the region.

More recently, the House and Senate have held hearings about the need for the Trump administration to act quickly to get the funds where they are needed.

“We implore you to review proposals from credible organizations on the ground in the region who are committed to these goals, and if deemed worthy, to move swiftly to empower the through available resources to rebuild the region,” they lawmakers wrote.

U.S. Taxpayer-Funded Group Gives $100,000 to Terrorism-Tied Islamic Charity

December 8, 2015

U.S. Taxpayer-Funded Group Gives $100,000 to Terrorism-Tied Islamic Charity USAID gives cash to Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood-linked group

BY:
December 8, 2015 1:20 pm

Source: U.S. Taxpayer-Funded Group Gives $100,000 to Terrorism-Tied Islamic Charity – Washington Free Beacon

Rajiv Shah

USAID administrator Rajiv Shah / AP

A U.S. taxpayer-funded aid organization has awarded $100,000 to an Islamic charity that has been banned in some countries for providing assistance to Hamas and other terrorism-linked organizations, according to grant information.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, also known as USAID, has pledged a federal grant of $100,000 for the charity Islamic Relief Worldwide, which has been repeatedly linked to the financing of terrorism.

Under USAID’s Foreign Assistance for Programs Overseas, Islamic Relief will be given $100,000 in 2016 for various foreign projects, according to grant information.

The award has generated controversy among critics of Islamic Relief’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and the terror group Hamas.

Both Israel and the United Arab Emirates have banned the Islamic charity since 2014 following investigations that determined that the organization was tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and entities providing support to Hamas, according to reports.

Islamic Relief has also been caught in a financial relationship with al Qaeda and other radicalized individuals.

The charity’s “accounts show that it has partnered with a number of organizations linked to terrorism and that some of charity’s trustees are personally affiliated with extreme Islamist groups that have connections to terror,” according to research conducted by Samuel Westrop, a terrorism analyst, and published by the Gatestone Institute.

Israeli authorities determined in 2006 that the charity was providing material support to Hamas.

“The IRW provides support and assistance to Hamas’s infrastructure. The IRW’s activities in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip are carried out by social welfare organizations controlled and staffed by Hamas operatives,” according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The intensive activities of these associations are designed to further Hamas’s ideology among the Palestinian population.”

Israeli authorities arrested the charity’s Gaza coordinator, Ayaz Ali, in 2006 due to his work on Hamas’s behalf.

“Incriminating files were found on Ali’s computer, including documents that attested to the organization’s ties with illegal Hamas funds abroad (in the UK and in Saudi Arabia) and in Nablus,” according to Israel’s foreign affairs ministry. “Also found were photographs of swastikas superimposed on IDF symbols, of senior Nazi German officials, of Osama Bin Laden, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as well as many photographs of Hamas military activities.

A review of Islamic Relief’s accounts have shown that it donated thousands of dollars to a charity founded by a leading al Qaeda terrorist, according to Westrop’s research.

Islamic Relief Worldwide was co-founded by a Muslim Brotherhood-linked individual who formerly worked for the Clinton Foundation. That individual, Gehad el-Haddad, was arrested by Egyptian authorities in 2013 and sentenced to serve five years for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

American law enforcement officials also have expressed concerns about the organization’s ties to Hamas.

“We know that these Muslim leaders and groups are continuing to raise money for Hamas and other terrorist organizations,” one U.S. law enforcement official told Patrick Poole, a terrorism analyst, in 2011. “Ten years ago we shut down the Holy Land Foundation. It was the right thing to do. Then the money started going to KindHearts. We shut them down too.”

“Now the money is going through groups like Islamic Relief and Viva Palestina,” the official said. “Until we act decisively to cut off the financial pipeline to these terrorist groups by putting more of these people in prison, they are going to continue to raise money that will go into the hands of killers.”

While the charity attempted to perform an internal audit in 2014 in a bid to clear its tainted name, experts have cast doubt on the integrity of the investigation.

“The information provided by [Islamic Relief] on its internal investigation is insufficient to assess the veracity of its claims,” NGO Monitor, a watchdog group, wrote in a 2015 analysis. “NGO Monitor recommends that a fully independent, transparent, and comprehensive audit of IRW’s international activities and funding mechanisms be undertaken immediately.”

Kyle Shideler, director of the Center for Security Policy’s Threat Information Office, expressed shock that the U.S. government would be funding such a controversial organization, particularly in light of recent efforts to boost the fight against international terror organizations.

“The fact that the U.S. government would provide funding to an organization which two of our allies view as a terrorism finance entity is obviously highly problematic both for our domestic security, but also for foreign relations,” said Shideler, who has written extensively about the charity.

“Both Israel and the UAE consider IRW a threat to their security. And we’re funding them. The fact that this administration is aware of the role IRW plays, and yet sees fit not only to associate with, but actually funds them should be an outrage.”

The grant is particularly troubling given that Congress as Congress seeks to label the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, Shideler said.

“Given that there’s currently a bill before Congress to designate the Muslim Brotherhood, and Congress is currently in discussion over an Omnibus spending bill, it would seem to me that now would be an opportune time to call for a total defunding of organizations linked to terror finance or Muslim Brotherhood activity,” Shideler said. “One would think such a move wouldn’t be necessary, but unfortunately it appears that this administration will continue to do so unless restrained by Congress.”

USAID did not respond to a request for more information about the grant.