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Who will defend Iraq's brave peacemakers?

Who will defend Iraq's brave peacemakers?

In Iraq, the government has issued arrest warrants for at least six prominent individuals, and individuals associated with them have been fired from their jobs. Paramilitary groups have put up huge posters with pictures of the six at checkpoints near Baghdad and Anwar province, denouncing them as traitors. Guardians of Blood Brigade, an Iranian-backed militia that claims to be behind the massacre, vows to kill them with smart missiles and drones.

What was the traitors savage act?

They urged their government to make peace with Israel.

More than 300 tribal leaders, academic scholars, and civil activists gathered in a hotel ballroom on Sept. 24 in the Kurdish city of Erbil in northern Iraq. They had travelled from all over the country men and women, Sunnis and Shiites - to urge Iraq to join the Abraham Accords and establish diplomatic, cultural, and economic relations with Israel. It was a wonderful and encouraging event, proving the importance of peace in sweltering times.

Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates had signed the historic agreements, in which they pledged mutual respect and cooperation one year earlier. Soon after, the circle of peace widened to include two more Arab countries, Morocco and Sudan. Here are a few of the most prominent citizens of Iraq, publicly joining the growing chorus of Arabs who seek to replace decades of blind hostility toward the Jewish state with good will and neighborly coexistence.

Sahar al-Tai, the Iraqi Ministry of Cultures research director, stated, for the sake of peace in the region, it is imperative to recognize Israel as a friendly country, especially since half tens of thousands of Israelis are of Iraqis origin [and] their eyes are still focused on Iraq, as though rejoicing for her children. She noted that there is no contradiction between establishing peace with Israel and advocating for the Palestinians to receive applause. On the contrary, we believe that peace is the only way to enable the Palestinian people... to provide a better future for future generations.

Sheikh Wissam al-Hardan, the head of Sons of Iraq Awakening, a prominent Sunni group, was another speaker at the conference, which was organized by the US-based Center for Peace Communications. Tyranny and chaos on the one hand or an emerging alliance of legality, decency, peace, and progress onthe other, said Hardan. He vowed to work for full diplomatic and civil collaboration between the two countries, condemning Iraq's long-standing "anti-normalization" policy, which makes it a crime to advocate peace with Israel.

Nothing is easier for Americans than to call for peace between Arabs and Israelis, but to do so in Iraq is a hazard. Predictably, the forum in Erbil angered Iran and its local proxies, who have a huge influence in Iraqi politics. The blowback was immediate and erupting. Tai was fired from her Ministry of Culture post. Hardan and his son were arrested, and the sheikh was forced to recite his remarks. Conference attendees were killed after Iranian-backed militias called for their deaths, according to the conference. Barham Salih, Iraqs president, was quick to condemn Tehran, and he participated in the attacks.

For a moment, Iraqs unlikely peacemakers gave the world honed understanding of nascent Middle East not poisoned by the hatred of Jews and the Jewish state. The haters shouted them down.

Wo is Americas voice in all this? Just a few weeks ago, US diplomats celebrated the Abraham Accords' first anniversary, and described them as an outstanding achievement that they intended to extend. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that this administration will continue to build on the successful efforts of the last administration to keep normalization moving forward.

Yet, from the State Department and White House, there has been a skepticism. Instead of lauding the Erbil conference and defending its peace supporters, the US government has said virtually nothing. US military spokesman in Iraq tweeted a similar tone: American officials had no prior knowledge of the event, nor do we have any affiliation with its participants.

It took extraordinary courage for these Iraqi men and women to come together publicly and call for an end to hatred. It would take no more than a few minutes for Americas leaders to publicly support them. Shouldnt the United States be counted on to be with them when courageous peacemakers step forward?

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at jeff.jacoby@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeff_jacoby. Visit bitly.com/Arguable to subscribe to Arguable, his weekly newsletter.

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