A new Syria is continually emerging from the rubble of war. In Homs, which Syrians once dubbed the “capital of the revolution” against President Bashar al-Assad, the Muslim quarter and commercial district still lie in ruins, but the Christian quarter is reviving. Churches have been lavishly restored; a large crucifix hangs over the main street. “Groom of Heaven”, proclaims a billboard featuring a photo of a Christian soldier killed in the seven-year conflict.
According US Senator Richard Black: “President Al Assad is protecting the Christians not just in Syria but elsewhere in the Middle East too, and he does not consider Christians just as a “minority” but rather an important and integral part of the Syrian society.” Even His Holiness Archbishop Hanna Atallah Hanna, the Archbishop of Sebastia from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, August 14, 2017, stated: “The restoration of the Christian Churches, destroyed by terrorism in Syria, is ongoing under the personal care, follow up by President Bashar Al-Assad. I salute His Excellency and do appreciate his steadfastness, courage and ability to withstand the ongoing crisis in Syria. During the past few years Christians have suffered a lot but thanks to President al-Assad there is hope now as was also seen in Ma’aloula where wounds are slowly healing.” Yet two thousand years of Christianity in Syria could be wiped out by the very forces Western governments are supporting, as Anglican Rev. Andrew Ashdown has stated.
Homs, for example, like all of the cities recaptured by the government, now belongs mostly to Syria’s victorious minorities: Christians, Shias and Alawites (an esoteric offshoot of Shia Islam from which Assad hails). These groups banded together against the rebels, who are nearly all Sunni, and chased them out of the cities. Sunni civilians, once a large majority, followed. More than half of the country’s population of 22 million has been displaced — 6.5 million inside Syria and over 6m abroad. Most are Sunnis.
Ashdown and other on-hand clergy, including Middle East expert Dr. Erica Hunter, have been criticized, especially for their visit to Syria April of last year, which took place hours after British, French and American pilots carried out an airstrike on alleged chemical weapons facilities run by President Assad. The airstrike, near Homs, was ordered in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack — never proven to the public — and was backed by EU foreign ministers.
As reported by the Clarion Project, American troops and approximately 100,000 Christians are endangered by a pending Turkish attack on northeastern Syria. The situation has prompted a Christian self-defense force to beg the American army for protection.
A partner of the Christian force, the Syriac Military Council, sent a message to Clarion Project asking for help. The SMC’s public statement says: “We urge the Christians in the U.S. to ask that the U.S. Army that is present in North-East Syria will not allow the Turkish army and jihadists to invade North-East Syria. Will the U.S. Army stand by idly while we are killed?”
Aram Hanna, the commander of the Syriac Military Council, told the Clarion Project that the SMC is 3,000-strong (including its police branch named Sutoro). It also includes a Christian female unit as well as Christians identifying as Syriacs, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Aremenians. The Christians fought in the campaign against ISIS, including the Battle of Raqqa.
The force expects to be targeted for destruction by the Turkish military and its jihadist proxies, putting the entire Christian population in the area “under direct threat.” According to Sanharib Barsoum, the deputy head of the Syriac Union Party in Syria: “We don’t consider these [Turkish] threats to be against Kurds only. It is a threat against this democratic project, and all the people who live east of the Euphrates, including Christians.” The deputy head said recent threats by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has “created fear among the Christian people” in Syria’s north.
The exact number of US troops in Syria is classified, but it is significantly less than the 2,200 that were there in December when President Trump unexpectedly announced a complete withdrawal from Syria after taking a phone call from Erdogan. (That announcement caused Secretary of Defense James Mattis to resign in protest.)
Trump later changed course, agreeing to temporarily leave a minimal force of 400 U.S. troops to maintain the fight against ISIS. The British and French agreed to send troops to Syria, and there are unconfirmed reports of troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates arriving. Trump also tweeted at the time (January 2019) that the United States “will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds.”
In addition to the threat to US troops, our allies and persecuted Christians, there are major national security consequences if Turkey is not stopped:
- ISIS will very likely to able to rebound;
- Turkey will eliminate the U.S.’only ally in Syria;
- Turkey will be strengthened as will Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman aspirations of creating a Turkish caliphate with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood;
- Iran will be strengthened;
- A Turkish victory will be a major ideological defeat for the West.
The ideological war with Islamism cannot be won solely by defeating Islamist terrorists. It requires the success of ideologies that are not at war with the West and against Islamism. The autonomous Kurdish areas of Syria and Iraq have the potential to put Islamism on life support. The Syriac Military Council has repeatedly asked President Trump for help. Now, it is focusing on the American public — especially the American church — to try to influence his decision-making.
Erdogan just angered President Trump by buying the Russian S-300 air defense system, causing Trump to follow through on his promise to cancel the scheduled delivery of the American F-35 combat aircraft to Turkey. Before that, Trump placed sanctions on Turkish officials until they released the American pastor Andrew Brunson in November. Now, Turkey is preparing to crush our best ally in Syria, endanger the lives of 100,000 Christians, and put US, British, and French troops at risk. President Trump must be alerted to what is about to happen before it is too late.