Islamist Threat to Minorities in Syria
Last Wednesday, August 1 (2012), I posted on the rise of jihad in Syria, noting that the Sunni Muslims who come under Islamist influence will turn against not only the ruling Alawites but also the Shi'ites and the Christians, as well as all other minorities. A couple of days later, I posted a comment on Malcolm Pollack's blog post concerning President Obama's 'secret' order providing US support for rebels against the Syrian government:
So . . . we're going to support the Sunni Muslims against a brutal dictator who protects minorities so that the Sunnis can set up a brutal dictatorship that will wipe out the minorities? To replace a theocratic Iran with a theocratic al-Qaeda? Do we stand to gain anything from this?Does anybody other than Sunni Islamists stand to gain anything? Apparently not, as Kapil Komireddi reports from Syria for the NYT in an article, "Syria's Crumbling Pluralism" (August 3, 2012):
The day begins here with the call to prayer and ends with the roar of gunfire. Syria's pluralistic society, which once rose above sectarian identity in a region often characterized by a homicidal assertion of religious belief, is now faced with civil disintegration and ethnic cleansing.Komireddi summarizes the transformation in Syria:
Syria's 2.3 million Christians, constituting about 10 percent of the country's population, have generally known a more privileged existence under the Assad dynasty than even the Shiite Alawi sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs. Yet their allegiance to Assad was never absolute. Some Christians openly clamored for political change in the early months of the anti-government uprising. But as the rebellion became suffused with Sunni militants sympathetic to or affiliated with Al Qaeda, Christians recoiled.Komireddi talks with a Syrian Christian:
A churchgoing Syrian told me that he used to see himself primarily as "Syrian" and that religious identity, in political terms, was an idea that never occurred to him -- until an opposition gang attacked his family earlier this year in Homs. "It's a label they pinned on us," he said. "If their revolution is for everyone, as they keep insisting it is, why are Christians being targeted? It is because what they are waging is not a struggle for freedom, and it's certainly not for everyone."Follow the money:
As Saudi Arabian arms and money bolster the opposition, the 80,000 Christians who've been "cleansed" from their homes in Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan in Homs Province in March by the Free Syrian Army have gradually given up the prospect of ever returning home.Meanwhile, the US, which should be the natural allies of threatened minorities, again stabs itself in the back:
The seeming indifference of the international community to the worsening condition of Syria's religious minorities -- and the near total absence of censure of the opposition forces by the Western governments arrayed against Assad -- is breeding a bitter anti-Americanism among many secular Syrians who see the United States aligning itself with Saudi Arabia, the fount of Wahhabism, against the Arab world's most resolutely secular state.And the US just keeps digging that knife in deeper:
Washington is aware of the scale of the problem. As early as June 2011, Robert Stephen Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, briefed his counterparts in Damascus about Al Qaeda's penetration of the opposition forces. By still ploughing ahead with its support for Saudi Arabia's effort to destabilize Syria, Washington, far from assisting Israel or weakening Iran, is helping to fuel a humanitarian crisis that will come back to haunt the United States.I disagree on Iran. If Syria's government falls, Iran will lose influence in the region, but the trade-off will not be to America's benefit if the Sunni Islamists take over. Nor will such a state of affairs help Israel, as Komireddi notes, a point on which I agree, for Islamists will be even more hostile to Israel than the secular Alawites.
Could this be prevented? Perhaps if the West had worked more closely earlier with Russia on getting Bashir to step down, but nobody has been ahead of the curve on these developments in Syria . . .