The Syrian powder keg

A boy rides his bicycle past damaged buildings in Deir al-Zor, Syria, April 3. (CNS photo/ Khalil Ashawi, Reuters).
A boy rides his bicycle past damaged buildings in Deir al-Zor, Syria. (CNS photo/ Khalil Ashawi, Reuters).

[notice]What if the US launches a military strike against Syria? How will it impact Christians there? –Originally published in INContext Ministries’ World In Motion, Issue 84.[/notice]

As war-cries go, “there are no good options”, leaves something to be desired. But punishing the Syrian regime for the chemical attack on August 21st is not easy to get right. The response must be big enough to be taken seriously, in Syria and elsewhere. At the same time it must not be seen as making the attackers party to the war the regime is fighting, or escalating the conflict across the region. Such calibration may be too fine a task to achieve with the blunt instrument of war. (

US Secretary of State John Kerry, in his response to the suspected use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, made the following statement: “It is about whether Iran, which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons attacks, will now feel emboldened, in the absence of action, to obtain nuclear weapons. It is about Hezbollah, and North Korea, and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. Will they remember that the Assad regime was stopped from those weapons’ current or future use, or will they remember that the world stood aside and created impunity?” Compare Kerry’s anticipation that other anti-western countries like Iran might be emboldened to take a page from al-Assad with the words of former US president George W. Bush: “Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof – the smoking gun – that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud”. The latter statement was used by the Bush administration as a premise for the invasion of Iraq and later Afghanistan – will the statements made by Kerry be enough to drag the US and its allies into another undetermined and prolonged war in the Middle East?

President Obama, during a press conference at the White House, said he was willing to work with anyone who can help bring peace to Syria, even Iran. Iran, in turn, threatened the US and Israel by reiterating its previous statement that ‘a thousand rockets would fall on Israel’ if the US intervenes in Syria. Israel has not taken lightly to the current situation and has ordered the mass distribution of gas masks to Israelis.

Both the US and UK leaders brought the possibility of a strike before their respective governing houses in recent days, in an attempt to gain the support of the people. In theory, Obama does not need the approval of Congress, but nonetheless brought it to a vote – allowing UN inspectors more time to gather evidence to support his proposal of striking Syria. UK Prime Minister David Cameron was not that fortunate as the house voted against his proposal.

If the US does intervene in Syria by selective military strikes against the regime, the blowback could be incalculable as the Al-Qaeda-supported rebels gain strength in their fight against Assad. In reality, if the proposed strike against Syria goes ahead, the US will indirectly be supporting Al-Qaeda, the terrorists group considered to be one of their greatest enemies for the last decade.

From a Christian perspective: With the remaining Syrian Christians (once a relatively established and semi-protected community) caught in the middle of this vast and ongoing conflict, and rapidly decreasing as hundreds of thousands flee, consider this perspective from Robin Harris, as appeared in The Spectator (31 August, England): “Who will fight [the Syrian war], let alone who will win it, remains unclear. But who will lose it is already known — the Christians. Whether in Iraq, or Syria, or Egypt, or in any future hotspot (Lebanon will probably be next) the Christian community somehow is always just too insignificant, and usually on the wrong side of the argument. In Iraq, Christians were thought too close to Saddam. In Syria, they are reckoned too close to Assad. In Egypt, where the Coptic Pope openly backed the military ‘non-coup’ against the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Morsi, the Christians find no sympathy from western policy makers.”

The evidence of a Christian exodus in conjunction with foreign military invasions of Muslim countries, as can be seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, should be warning enough to predict a Syria void of Christianity if the US and its allies attack. America will simply add to the bloodshed and is likely to contribute to the war spilling over to other nations.

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