WASHINGTON (JTA) — Iraq said it is cutting archaeological cooperation with the United States because the U.S. has not returned Iraq’s Jewish archives.
Iraqi Tourism and Archaeology Minister Liwaa Smaisim is pushing for the return of the archives that were removed from Iraq following the 2003 U.S. Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the French news agency AFP.
Iraq was home to a large Jewish community prior to 1948 before most Iraqi Jews immigrated to Israel.
The archives, which were discovered in the flooded basement of Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, include Torah scrolls, and Jewish law and children’s books. Seventy percent of the collection consists of Hebrew-language documents and 25 percent is in Arabic. The rest of the documents are written in other languages.
Smaisim, a member of the anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement, told AFP that Iraq will “use all means” to retrieve the archives.
"One of the means of pressure that I used against the American side is I stopped dealing with the American [archaeological] exploration missions because of the case of the Jewish archives and the antiquities that are in the United States," Smaisim told AFP.
Asked for comment, U.S. Embassy spokesman Michael McClellan told AFP that the archives were in "the temporary custody of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration for conservation, preservation and digitization" and that "all the material will return to Iraq at the conclusion of the project."