When George W Bush sent the US into Iraq in 2003, he believed he would be replacing Saddam Hussein with a peaceful, pro-American Arab democracy that would naturally look to the Christian west for support. In reality, seven years on, it appears that he has instead created a highly radicalised pro-Iranian sectarian killing field, where most of the Iraqi Christian minority has been forced to flee abroad.
This week saw new levels of violence directed at Iraq’s Christians. Eight days after the attack on Baghdad’s main Catholic church that left more than 50 worshippers dead, militants detonated more than 14 bombs in Christian suburbs, killing at least four and wounding about 30. Since then the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), an al-Qaida front, has warned of a new wave of attacks on Christians “wherever they can be reached … We will open upon them the doors of destruction and rivers of blood.”
Before Bush senior took on Saddam for the first time in 1991, there were more than a million Christians in Iraq. They made up just under 10% of the population, and were a prosperous and prominent minority, something exemplified by the high profile of Tariq Aziz, Saddam’s Christian foreign minister. Educated and middle class, the Christians were concentrated in Mosul, Basra and especially Baghdad, which then had the largest Christian population of any city in the Middle East.