Syrian refugee children look out from their tent during a visit by United Nations to their makeshift settlement in Saadnayel in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, August 17, 2015.
Mohamed Azakir / Reuters

The Islamic State (ISIS), the European Parliament declared on February 4, “is committing genocide.” In its statement, the parliament noted ISIS’ harsh treatment of Christians, Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities, and it urged the UN Security Council to investigate the atrocities. Pope Francis, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, over 200 members of Congress, and several presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, have likewise described ISIS’ violence against minorities as genocidal.

The Obama administration, however, has gone no further than noting, as Secretary of State John Kerry did on February 24, “revulsion” about the treatment of Christians and other minorities and asking “for further evaluation.” The administration’s reluctance to use the genocide label has sparked criticism from those who believe that the degree of ISIS’ atrocities is clear. U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R.-Neb.) has argued that “When you are being persecuted simply because of

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  • AMANDA J. ROTHSCHILD is a Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
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