Last month, armed rebels in the Province of Aleppo, Syria kidnapped two Syrian Bishops. Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi had been in the village of Kfar Dael doing humanitarian work when they were kidnapped as they were travelling to Aleppo. Their driver was killed in the attack. These bishops are the most senior church leaders so far who have been caught in the Syrian conflict, which has been waged between the Assad regime and armed rebel groups who have been working to overthrow the dictator.
Last September Yohanna Ibrahim told reporters that hundreds of Christian families had fled Aleppo as rebels and Abbas’ soldiers battled over their city. Syria’s Christians, who make up approximately 10% of the population, have been wary of the fighting as they have compared their situation to what has happened to Christians in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia after the “Arab Spring”.
The 25-month long conflict, which has grown into an all-out war between Abbas regime and rebel groups, has caused 2 million Syrians to be displaced and has caused over 70,000 deaths. In the city of Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, there has been fighting between the Free Syrian Army, the main armed opposition group, and the Syrian army’s 4th Division, Republican Guard, Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and shabiha militias with attempts by government forces to regain control of areas around that city. With the deaths of so many civilians, the government is blaming the rebels, while the rebels blame the government forces.
With this conflict, the world’s nations have been lining up behind both sides. Iran is staunchly backing Abbas and believes he should remain in power until the next elections, which are next year. Russia has been using veto power at the UN Security Council to protect Assad from efforts to remove him from power, mainly by Western nations. The rebels have been supported by western and Arab countries. Assad has shown no willingness to step down from power and the violence from both sides has escalated, and while many people are caught in the middle, Christians have seen the worst of it.
As for America’s involvement in the conflict, it has been speculated by many that the US was using the compound in Benghazi as a gun running platform, to arm the rebels in Syria, using much of the cache of weapons left from the Gaddafi overthrow.
“They were working with the very same al-Qaeda linked relationships in Libya,” Lopez said, “to gather up and buy back and collect weapons from Gaddafi’s stock pile that were missing from the revolution in Libya last year and what it looks like is that they were shipping them onwards to Syria.”
In a November 1, 2012 article in the Free Republic it was reported that “the Obama régime has been running guns, armaments and munitions to the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliate jihadist groups, including heat-seeking shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles.”
The article quotes Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch emergencies director, who told CNN that “in every city we arrive, the first thing to disappear are the surface-to-air missiles…We are talking about some 20,000 surface-to-air missiles in all of Libya, and I’ve seen cars packed with them.”
As far back as August of 2012, it was reported that Obama signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to over throw Assad’s regime. The authorization allowed the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels get rid of Assad. Did this include US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens?
According to Hillary Clinton’s testimony in a Senate hearing, she claimed that she did not know whether the U.S. mission in Libya was procuring or transferring weapons to Turkey and other Arab countries. Rep. Rand Paul (R) Kentucky, asked if “the U. S. (was) involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?” Clinton replied, “To Turkey? I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody has ever raised that with me.”
WorldNet Daily reported that even the NY Times came out with a story about arms being airlifted to Syrian rebels with aid from the CIA which indicated that Clinton knew it was going on. WND reported that the Times, in February claimed the plan was Clinton’s and was to “vet the rebel groups and train fighters, who would be supplied with weapons.”
Now, even Geraldo Rivera has finally jumped on the story saying that his sources have verified that the compound was a “way station for American weapons to be shipped to Syrian rebels”.
So what does this all mean, and what does it have to do with what is happening in Syria now? First, more evidence is proving that this was a middle eastern version of “fast and furious”, and perhaps finally we can find out the truth of what happened before, during and after the terrorist attack on the compound which resulted in the deaths of 4 Americans.
What it means now, is that with the arms running, the United States government has effectively been running guns to known, sworn enemies of the United States. It is known that many of the Syrian rebel groups, including the Al Nusra Front are dominated by organizations that are aligned with al Qaeda. These rebel groups also include Islamist fighters whose aim is to establish an Islamic emirate, and groups inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood who also want a Sharia compliant state.
We are still arming and giving aid to these “rebels”. It was reported on April 21, that the US is still sending money to rebel groups, yet the rebels are not pleased with the US because there hasn’t been a strong enough response from Obama on ousting Abbas.
Current Secretary of State John Kerry made a statement after talks with pro-opposition forces in Istanbul, Turkey that the US will double its assistance to the Syrian opposition to $250 million and expand its non-lethal military supplies to rebel fighters.
“This conflict is now spilling across borders and is now threatening neighboring countries,” Kerry said, “This bloodshed needs to stop.”
We cannot forget about Israel in all of this. Israel fired rockets at Damascus last week, which was to keep Iranian weapons and chemicals, from being shipped to Lebanon, where Hezbollah is waiting for them. All the Syrian regime could do was to send a message to Moscow saying that a third Israeli strike would “incur an instantaneous Syrian response. Damascus would let Palestinian organizations off the leash to mount attacks against Israel from the Syrian Golan.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Monday that Israel’s “acts of aggression against Syria will not go unanswered and Tel Aviv will receive a crushing response.”
Meanwhile, for the rest of May and into June, Obama’s administration is expected to follow with operations ranging from US arms supplies to the rebels in hopes of destroying Syria’s air force facilities and missile sites with US air strikes from Turkey, Europe and Israel. Obama did the same thing to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya. Because of Obama’s weak leadership, Russia has formed an alliance with Hezbollah in Beirut, and with this and other alliances, this may cause Washington’s determination to end the war to fail.
We will have to wait and see what if anything can be accomplished in the next few weeks. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will be meeting with Russian Prime Minister Putin in hopes to call off a sale to Syria of advanced s-300 anti-aircraft missiles. It’s doubtful that Putin will cancel the plans, as Sec. of State Kerry and Britain’s David Cameron have already tried asking, warning Putin that this could spark a whole new arms race. Russia also has warned Israel against another air strike against Syria, stating that they would not allow another US led NATO air strike against Assad as they had done in Libya.
Things seem to be heating up in an already over heated situation, and millions of people caught in the middle will most likely continue to pay the price as the conflict continues. This author prays for these people who have a dictatorial regime and Islamic jihadi led rebel groups breathing down both sides of them. I also pray we will not see any more US ground troops involved in this war, as our troops have been over extended under this administration enough already. For someone who won a Nobel Peace Prize before he even really began his first term, Obama has created more situations where people have suffered for it.
As for those two Bishops, they are still missing. There has been very little reported about these two men, so Christians of all denominations need to be praying.
Maybe things wouldn’t have been so bad in Syria if the US hadn’t have armed the rebels, and instead, had taken a more hardline stance on the actions of the Abbas regime. Unfortunately, hardline is not what this administration has been about. The “red line” drawn by Obama seems to be drawn by disappearing ink, and is constantly needing to be redrawn… and always in a different spot.