Greater Middle East
New York area Syrians came out the afternoon of Sept. 7 for a Rally to Stop Assad's War on Syria at 40th Street and Seventh Ave., just south of Times Square. Some 100—including many women in hijabs, men beating on drums, and children with Syrian flags painted on their faces—marched in a circle behind police barricades, chanting with a level of passion rarely seen at political rallies: "ASSAD IS A TERRORIST; ASSAD IS A CRIMINAL; ASSAD OUT NOW; FREE, FREE SYRIA; END THE SYRIAN MASSACRE!" Placards read: "GLOBAL SILENCE IS THE CAUSE OF ATROCITIES IN SYRIA," "HANDS OFF SYRIANS: THE TERRORIST ASSAD IS KILLING US WITH CHEMICAL WEAPONS," and "INTERVENTION = CHEMICAL PROTECTION."
Syria's minority peoples are especially targeted by the jihadist rebels—and therefore generally wary of foreign intervention against the Bashar Assad regime. The Armenians, like other Syrian Christians, face growing attacks, with the US-based Armenian Weekly July 31 reporting a wave of abductions and slayings, including of children, by unnamed rebel factions. Zarmik Poghikian of Aleppo-based Armenian journal Gandzasar told Radio Free Europe Aug. 31: "The Armenian community is neutral, but it is concerned, because this possible strike will be delivered against the whole country and everyone without exception will suffer. Leaders of the Armenian community have urged people to remain cautious during these days and refrain from attempting to leave the city, but even if someone wanted to do so there is no opportunity anymore, as all roads are closed."
Jihadist forces of the Nusra Front launched an attack Sept. 4 on the ancient Christian village of Maaloula (Rif Dimashq governorate), which is on the UNESCO tentative list of world heritage sites. The assault began as a suicide bomber blew himself up at the army checkpoint at the village entrance, overwhelming the defenses. Nusra fighters briefly occupied the village, surrounding the church and mosque, before being driven out by reinforcements. Fighting is said to continue outside the village, with fears that the Nusra Front could establish footholds in the surrounding mountains and shell Maaloula from above. Maaloula, some 60 kilometers northeast of Damascus, is home to about 2,000 residents, mostly Aramaic-speaking Greek Catholics (Melikites). Aramaic is listed by UNESCO as a "definitely endangered" language.
We have noted how the "anti-war" forces are "fighting the last war" to such a degree that they can refer to the WMD charges against Syria as "false pretenses"—mere days after a chemical attack that may have killed over a thousand. We can't help but use quotation marks when the "anti-war" forces are covering up for monstrous war crimes. Yeah, this is a case of the proverbial boy who cried wolf—if Dubya hadn't lied a decade ago, Assad would not be getting such a free ride from the "anti-war" folks today (one hopes). But that doesn't let anyone off the hook: denial of the Ghouta attack still constitutes a shameful betrayal of human solidarity that completely delegitimizes any "anti-war" position. Diana Moukalled writing in the pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat Sept. 4 decries: "Iraq overshadowing Syria's cries for help"...
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sept. 3 questioned the legality of the US plan to strike Syria. Ban stated that the use of force is lawful only in two very limited circumstances: (1) when used in self-defense according to Article 51 of the UN charter or (2) when the UN Security Council (UNSC) approves such action. Ban questioned whether the planned use of force would solve the situation in Syria, adding that such use would cause more damage. Ban noted that UN inspectors are deployed to investigate whether chemical weapons have been used in Syria. According to Ban, the UNSC would be able to overcome its differences and take action once investigations are done. A potential US strike has been opposed by Russia. President Vladimir Putin on on Sept. 4 warned the US and its allies to take any unilateral action. However, he stated that he may support the UN action once investigations confirm use of chemical weapons.
The Syrian government is currently using cluster munitions in its ongoing conflict, according to a report issued Sept. 4 by the Landmine and Cluster Munition Moniter (LCMM), an organization co-founded by Human Rights Watch (HRW). Cluster munitions are banned under two separate treaties, in 1997 (Mine Ban Treaty) and 2008 (Convention on Cluster Munitions). The latest report identified more than 200 cluster munition sites in Syria, charging: "Syria is persisting in using cluster bombs, insidious weapons that remain on the ground, causing death and destruction for decades... Meanwhile, other countries around the world that have joined the treaty are showing a strong commitment to get rid of cluster bombs once and for all." Neither Syria nor the US have signed either treaty.
We noted over a year ago that the increasingly poorly named "anti-war" movement (more of a gaggle than a "movement," and highly selective in being "anti-war") was betraying the Syrian people by failing to even acknowledge Bashar Assad's atrocities, and portraying the opposition as all CIA pawns or al-Qaeda jihadists or both. Now that Assad is apparently escalating to genocide and the US threatens air-strikes, is there any sign that the "anti-war" forces have been chastised into a more honest appraisal? Sadly, no.
Since the Syria war began over two years ago, we have been seeking voices of the civil resistance within Syria, which supports a democratic and secular future for the country. Although marginalized by utterly ruthless armed actors that have come to dominate the scene, such a civil resistance continues even now to exist in war-torn Syria. The "anti-war" voices now mounting in the US have displayed very little awareness of these progressive voices in Syria, or even interest in whether they exist—much less their perspectives on the looming military intervention, or the opposition to it. Today, three pieces appeared on the Internet addressed to "anti-war" commentators in the West—two by Palestinians with family connections in Syria, one by a Syrian. They contain some harsh admonitions...