Iraqi officials have welcomed the decision of the US to return more than 60 smuggled precious artifacts back to Iraq. However, security concerns for those antiques are rising due to the presence of ISIS militants in Iraq.
In an event in Washington DC, the artifacts were handed over to Iraq. Wide ranges of antiques are there in the list, starting from hardware lifted from Saddam Hussein's private palace to Assyrian antiquities.
Iraqi side accepted the artifacts with confidence that they can take care of these antiques. Despite of concerns, Iraqi officials stressed that the antiques will stay harmless in the museum of Baghdad. All safety measures will be taken to make the products safe, assured by Iraq’s officials.
An official, who did not want to disclose identity, has referred to an earlier statement made by Iraq's Ambassador to the United States, Lukman Faily.
Faily said that the transfer of the artifacts will put up a strong message against ISIS militants. It will display that Iraq’s government is committed to save its history and heritage.
Ahmed Ali, a fellow at the Washington-based Education for Peace in Iraq Center, remarked that these antiques represent cultural soul of Iraq. In a reply to ISIS’s destruction, it is important for Iraq to uplift its cultural heritage through these artifacts.
Earlier this month, Tourism and Antiquities Minister of Iraq, Adel Shirshab had expressed his concern against vandalizing of Iraqi antiques and museums by militants.
He made an appeal to international community and coalition to activate its air strikes and target terrorism wherever it exists.
In a one-day visit to Baghdad earlier this month, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said, “The coalition would "consider" intervention to protect the historic sites, but noted that any action would have to "fit into the priority of all the other things we're being asked to do on behalf of Iraq."
According to UNESCO’s estimation, artifacts smuggled from various disturbed zones of Middle East account for $2.2 billion of the global illicit market annually.
Patricia Wattenmaker, a professor of Archeology, specializing in Mesopotamia, at the University of Virginia, said that US government always shows intention for doing the right thing.
There is regret that the U.S. government did not protect the National Museum when U.S. forces entered Baghdad. But government has initiated subsequent measures to recover the antiques, which were looted during war.