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Friday, January 24, 2014

Syria, civil war -- and the persecution of Christians

Even though a major conference on Syria's future opened in Geneva yesterday, most Americans have stopped thinking about the civil war we almost blundered into. Yet some extraordinary things have happened. I'll give you just a taste (grim pun intended):
Assad “is the lesser of two evils,” said a Christian resident of the divided city of Homs who asked not to be further identified in order to speak freely. He said that a video circulated on the Internet last summer of a Syrian extremist cutting an organ from the body of a dead soldier and appearing to eat it “made a huge change” in many people’s attitudes.
That sounds like a classic over-the-top wartime atrocity tale, but it comes from the Christian Science Monitor -- and yes, there really is such a video on YouTube. (The Islamic cannibal starring in that horrifying production would probably rather die than eat pork. We are dealing with very strange people.)

Many Americans remain confused by the true nature of the rebels trying to topple Assad. Well, the above-linked video should give you a pretty clear idea, if you have the courage to watch it.

Basically, these guys are a barbaric crew of fundamentalist holy warriors who don't even know that they have been fighting a proxy war on behalf of the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel. For reasons of their own, those three powers want rid of Syrian ruler Bashar Assad. The U.S. has officially denounced the pro-Al Qaeda elements of the rebellion -- yet we have covertly aided those very same fighters, some of whom, not long ago, stood against our own troops in Iraq. Why would we aid such people? One simple reason: You can't win a war without muscle.

This conflict has produced what may be the strangest "strange bedfellows" scenario in the history of politics.

If you want more details about who is who within the revolutionary forces, this piece by Dmitry Minin (a writer previously unfamiliar to me) offers a superb guide...
Various groups of Islamists have entered into a fierce armed conflict. Casualties on both sides have already greatly exceeded 1000 people. The troublemaker was the Islamic Front (IF), formed around two months ago from several groups and numbering approximately 50,000-60,000 fighters. On January 3 its troops attacked armed groups from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has proclaimed itself part of al-Qaeda and is estimated to number up to 22,500 fighters, in several places…

It was immediately obvious that it was on the IF that the West had placed its bets in the Syrian civil war after the Free Syrian Army (FSA) lost its fighting effectiveness in conflicts with government troops...
The IF sympathizes with al-Qaeda, but does not openly identify itself with it. It is in ISIS, on the other hand, that foreign mujahedeens are concentrated, and its core is made up of natives of the Iraqi Sunni province of Anbar. This anti-Western organization is especially disliked in the U.S. because it stole the American idea of the «greater Middle East». ISIS has proclaimed itself the authorized representative of al-Qaeda in that part of the world, which is corroborated by the latter's chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The Iraqi part of ISIS, which dominates in the Anbar province neighboring Syria and recently captured the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah from Baghdad, is headed by Shaker Wahib, while the Syrian part is headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The al-Qaeda-oriented al-Nusra Front also occupies a special position. In the fight which has broken out among the various Islamist groups, it either remains neutral or also fights with ISIS...
The situation changed abruptly about a week ago. ISIS regrouped its forces and received serious reinforcements from Iraq. In just one day 1700 fighters arrived in Syria from there.
Opposition sources assert that foreign mercenaries have played a decisive role in ISIS operations. The Chechen Omar al-Shishani (Tarkhan Batirashvili), who leads the vanguard, is mentioned in particular. In the Aleppo Governorate ISIS has occupied the cities of Harithan, Basratun, Bab al-Hawa and al-Bab, where enemy fighters are being rounded up and shot en masse. The IF has met with success only in the city of Saraqib.
Here's the cherry on top of the milk shake:
As Israeli experts note, these conflicts not only give President al-Asad a much-needed rest, but allow him to present himself as the only secular alternative to the Islamists.
This earlier piece by Minin focuses on the plight of Syria's Christian community:
For example, in response to the advance of the government army into the Qalamoun mountains between Damascus and Homs, where a powerful group of rebels had gathered for a sudden advance on the capital from the north (this group grew from 5,000 men a year ago to 20,000 in November of this year), the jihadists once again rushed into the nearby Christian town of Maaloula.
As mentioned in an earlier post, this town is the only place in the world where the kind of Aramaic spoken by Jesus remains a living language (albeit just barely).

Minin goes on to describe the desecration of ancient churches in that area, as well as the kidnapping of twelve nuns in the ancient convent of St. Thecla.
The rebels stated that they would burn the convent and kill the hostages, including the abbess, Mother Pelagia Sayyaf, after which the army retreated. The Free Qalamoun Brigades, which are part of the Army of Islam (Jeysh al-Islam), took responsibility for these barbarous acts.
If you fire up Google, you will see that this story is confirmed by numerous sources. A previous Cannonfire post discussed this outrage. Let's finish up with Minin...
The Qatari television channel Al-Jazeera broadcast video meant to show that the sisters «are being treated well in captivity» (as if they can be considered prisoners of war!). However, it is clear from the broadcast that the nuns were forced to remove their crosses, which is an insult to the symbol of their faith.
At the same time, hundreds of rebels from the groups Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham Al Islami were redeployed from Yabrud to Rankous in an attempt to occupy the nearby Christian city of Saidnaya. During the attack on the city they used grenade launchers, from which they shelled the local churches and convent. In eastern Syria, in the city of Ar-Raqqah, the group called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) destroyed all Christian symbols in one of the city's churches and established its headquarters there.
You would think that America's fundamentalist Christians ought to have the greatest sympathy for their co-religionists in Syria. Although most Syrian Christians dislike Assad, he has, for the most part, left that community alone. The Christians know that they can expect far worse treatment from the jihadists, should they attain power.

Strangely, most American Christians remain uninformed and unconcerned by these Islamic warriors.

When you look at how the Christian Broadcasting Network covers the story, you'll see nothing about the rebellion's links to Al Qaeda. You'll see nothing about the way ISIS fighters and the other jihadis have attacked churches and persecuted nuns.

Instead, CBN quotes -- with apparent approval! -- John Kerry:
In Switzerland, Secretary of State John Kerry took a hard line against the Assad regime, saying there is no place for him after the talks.

"That means that Bashar al-Assad will not be part of that transition government. There is no way, no way possible in the imagination, that the man who has led the brutal response to his own people could regain the legitimacy to govern. One man, and those who have supported him, can no longer hold an entire nation and region hostage," Kerry said.
I used to think the world of John Kerry. I started this very blog because I wanted to help that man become president. Alas, he's wrong here. Sure, Assad is a dictator and a thug -- but his opponents are even worse thugs. Kerry is deluded if he thinks that the badasses of ISIS, Al Nusrah and the Islamic Front are going to allow anything like a secular democracy to take root in Syria.

Well, I'll discuss my disappointment with Kerry on another occasion. This present post is devoted to making one simple point: Israel and Saudi Arabia want Assad gone, and most of America's "Christians" are so blinded by pro-Israel sentiment that they have little sympathy for the Christians of Syria.

(Or for the Christians of Palestine. That's a tale we'll be telling in a future post.)
The Saudis have also been threatening Russia.

See here and, for background, here.

By the sound of it, the Russians told the Saudis to shove their offer to 'protect' the Olympics.

Did the more recent US offer elicit a similar response? Probably.
Kissenger said, "The tragedies of history is when right fights wrong, but when right fights rights." Here we have wrong fighting wrong. The problems of Syria are extremely complex. Iran and Saudi Arabia signify the fight of Sunni and Shia, but Assad is Alewite, which is an offshoot of Shia, but isn't Shia. We tend to see other religions as a single entity (I was sixteen before I realized that there was a difference between Protestants and Catholics, they were all Christians to me), but the sects within a religions are frequently more antagonistic to each other than they are to those outside the religion. And Israel just wants the fight to go on. I don't think that removal of Assad is particularly the goal. You may disagree with that policy, heck, I would like to see the war ended, but it makes sense that when one's enemies are fighting, one would want to hold their hats and let them keep fighting.
You let "American Christians" off too easy, Joe.
American Christians, including Catholic majorities ignored the Pope when he condemned the "pre-emptive" Iraq War as immoral.
Ignorance and small "p" pagan
materialism explained that one.

Oh, and on the Syrian fighting as related to Israel? Half the "American Christians" to which you refer continue in their ignorance, again, fueled by pagan materialist state worship.
(That is, worship of the "indispensable" American state.)

The other half are heretical cultists by definition. I refer to
the "dispensational premillenialists" aka "Christian" Zionists.
Here we have a nation which bans
Christian attempts to convert Jews, under penalty of jail terms.
Yet the "Christian" American cult mystifies Israel as doing the will of God.
"American Christianity" is a decaying amalgam of the lukewarm (to understate matters) and the
fanatical heretical cultist.
Ken, there are, what, maybe a million people in this country who openly call themselves "pagan." I'm not one of them, obviously, but I've met more than a few (and even dated one). They didn't strike me as being particularly materialistic. In fact, I would say that they were probably less materialistic than is your average Americano.

So, I agree with what I THINK you're saying here, but we may need to find different verbiage.
Ken - the term "pagan materialist state worship" is unfair to pagans. But I know what you mean. Have you read On the Jewish Question by the young Marx?

Extract: "Indeed, the perfect Christian state is not the so-called Christian state – which acknowledges Christianity as its basis, as the state religion, and, therefore, adopts an exclusive attitude towards other religions. On the contrary, the perfect Christian state is the atheistic state, the democratic state, the state which relegates religion to a place among the other elements of civil society. The state which is still theological, which still officially professes Christianity as its creed, which still does not dare to proclaim itself as a state, has, in its reality as a state, not yet succeeded in expressing the human basis – of which Christianity is the high-flown expression – in a secular, human form."

Lots of profound insight in that article.

Happy Imbolc, everyone!
That's why I called it small "p" pagan, Joe.
As far as large P "pagan," Joe, I assure you that the average Russian under Stalin, who considered him or herself a "communist," had much more authentic Pagan in them than the
prototype modern American.
(See Russian mythos/peasantry,
contrast happy American Walmart shopper, eager to turn Snowden in for protection courtesy the mammy
DC World Police.
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