There are many tragedies playing out in Syria. Some of them are political and some are human.
On the political side, the inept and feckless leadership of Barack Obama and the faculty lounge Machiavellis he has surrounded himself with have shredded U.S. credibility in the Middle East and the world in the way they have mismanaged this and other crises in the region. It will take decades before anyone in the Middle East takes us seriously.
From a humanitarian standpoint, over 100,000 men, women, and children have been killed in a civil war that has been gathering momentum for the past two years. At least 2.5 million Syrians have fled the conflict. To put that in context it is if the combined population of Florida and Illinois were either killed or forced out of the United States. Ethnic cleansing is the order of the day in Syrian Kurdistan.
One of these humanitarian tragedies is the systematic assault on the ancient Christian community in Syria by the people we are in the process of arming.
The Christian community in Syria has been vibrant from the earliest days of Christianity. The Book of Acts tells us that Saul was on his way to Damascus to suppress an active Christian community there when he had a literal come-to-Jesus meeting.
The community survived the bloody Muslim conquest of the ancient heartland of Christianity in 634. It survived forced conversions, cultural isolation, and political powerlessness. But it may not survive the administration of Barack Obama.
While no one ever accused the Assad kleptocracy of being humanitarians, they were concerned with the aggrandizement of wealth and power. They didn’t particularly care what you believed so long as it didn’t threaten the regime. The Syrian Christian community was not persecuted under Assad though, to be honest, it was severely circumscribed in its practices. For instance, it was not allowed to accept converts from Islam or to proselytize in general.
As the civil war has progressed, the ranks of the Syrian rebels have become increasingly dominated by Islamists if not by outright al Qaeda elements. This stands in stark contrast to what John McCain and John Kerry would have you believe:
Jonathan Spyer says the moderate rebels in Syria the Obama administration has been touting are really Muslim Brotherhood-types who adhere to an Islamist ideology.
Spyer should know. An academic who lives in Israel and studies the Middle East, he has traveled to and through Syrian rebel-controlled territory, reporting on what he saw for various publications. Asked by The Daily Caller to respond to a much-cited Wall Street Journal article by Elizabeth O’Bagy, which claimed “[m]oderate opposition forces … continue to lead the fight against the Syrian regime,” Spyer said, “I can only speak regarding my own experiences and my own knowledge.”
“Undoubtedly outside of Syria, and in the Syrian opposition structures, there are civilian political activists and leaders who are opposed to al-Qaida and opposed to Islamism,” Spyer explained to TheDC in an email interview. “There are also civilian activists and structures within the country which are opposed to al-Qaida and Islamism. But when one looks at the armed rebel groups, one finds an obvious vast majority there who are adherents of Islamism of one kind or another — stretching from Muslim Brotherhood-type formations all the way across to groups openly aligned with al-Qaida central and with al-Zawahiri.”
The Islamists have not only brought with them an antipathy to the Ba’athist regime of Bashar al-Assad but their axiomatic hatred of Christians. In some cases it has first manifested itself in a demand that Christians pay a special tax (though, to be fair, this isn’t much different from the way Muslims are proceeding in the United States and Europe today except our tax is having to accept their demands for preferential status as legitimate):
Jamil [an elderly man] lived in a village near Idlib where 30 Christian families had always lived peacefully alongside some 200 Sunni families. That changed dramatically in the summer of 2012. One Friday trucks appeared in the village with heavily armed and bearded strangers who did not know anyone in the village. They began to drive through the village with a loud speaker broadcasting the message that their village was now part of an Islamic emirate and Muslim women were henceforth to dress in accordance with the provisions of the Islamic Shariah. Christians were given four choices. They could convert to Islam and renounce their ‘idolatry.’ If they refused they were allowed to remain on condition that they pay the jizya. This is a special tax that non-Muslims under Islamic law must pay for ‘protection.’ For Christians who refused there remained two choices: they could leave behind all their property or they would be slain. The word that was used for the latter in Arabic (dhabaha) refers to the ritual slaughter of sacrificial animals.
Bishops and priests have been kidnapped. Priests and church leaders have been slaughtered. The jihadis haven’t been all that squeamish about documenting their atrocities either. You can watch the beheadings of three Catholics, apparently a priest and two lay members, here.
Now we find out that the CIA has started arming these same jihadis.
The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.
The arms shipments, which are limited to light weapons and other munitions that can be tracked, began arriving in Syria at a moment of heightened tensions over threats by President Obama to order missile strikes to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons in a deadly attack near Damascus last month.
The Christian community in Syria faces enough challenges to its survival. The Obama administration aiding the rebels who are hellbent on destroying it is just another example of the moral blindness in the White House.