I can’t comment on specific massacres, because subterfuge and competing narratives have severely hampered fact-finding activities, even from the perspective of UN investigators. It is possible that a pro-government militia has once or twice been involved in something this gruesome, but it is extremely doubtful that the Syrian army has ever done so. Having covered this Syrian conflict for 18 months – several times inside the country – it is my belief that most of the incidents of wholesale civilian slaughter (massacres) have been committed by disparate rebel groups. For starters, when the first ones took place – Houla, Tremseh, etc – they occurred at critical moments before UN Security Council meetings, and were very opportunistic in their efforts to rally international support for intervention. (Tremseh, btw, was very quickly debunked – the dead were armed men, and yes, they had been killed by the army.)
The number of incidents of slaughtering civilians has risen since then, alongside a significant increase in particularly heinous crimes by extremist rebel groups, i.e. cutting up bodies, summary executions, etc. And yes, Christians have been targeted since the beginning, but much more so as we entered 2012. I have met Mother Agnes and spoken with her at length about her experiences, and they very much conform to what I have been hearing and reading elsewhere – the Vatican’s press agency, Fides, has been covering this in detail for some time now. It is galling that at this juncture, when radical Takfirism is being unleashed from Iraq to Syria, the US government and western countries have chosen this moment to go silent on the targeting of Christian minorities in this region.The State Department in 2012 stopped publishing the Religious Freedoms segment in their annual country human rights reports. They claim this is because it just repeats what is in another government report on religious freedoms, so they will only be linking to it in the future. I suspect the US government is trying desperately to underplay this new widespread persecution of Christians in the Arab world, because Washington’s latest ally in the region today is political Sunnism. This is the Saudi and Qatar-backed variety which range from the slightly more moderate Muslim Brotherhood-type groups to the increasingly radical Salafists and Al Qaeda-related groups in Syria known to be the most effective fighters against the Syrian state.The US government is not only fully aware of this new Christian persecution, but it is complicit in aiding its perpetrators via the provision of hundreds of millions of dollars in military training and “non-lethal” assistance. While many Christians have fled Syria, the 8-10 million Christian Copts in Egypt are also facing growing persecution by Islamists, many of them backed by Washington. Go figure – the US is now backing terror. But then again, Arabs and Muslims always knew that.– Sharmine Narwani –writer & political analystFollow Sharmine on Twitter @snarwani.
The U.S. and Western governments are backing the FSA rebels
by Ryan Keller
Members of the Free Syrian Army reportedly attacked the Christian-dominated al-Duvair village in Reef on the outskirts of Homs on Monday, where they massacred its citizens, including women and children, before the Syrian Army loyal to Bashar al Assad intervened on behalf of the Christians.
This reported attack comes shortly after intense fighting in the city of al-Qusseir over the weekend, in which Bashar Al-Assad’s forces inflicted heavy casualties on the rebels.
Assad’s forces launched an offensive in April in an effort to cut off supply lines to the rebels by taking the city and its surrounding areas from the rebel groups that had been entrenched there since last year. Two weeks ago, the Syrian forces reached the center of the city
While the sources describing Monday’s massacre are supportive of Assad, it’s possible that it occurred since the rebel groups fighting the Assad regime are composed mainly of members of al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda affiliated groups and have committed war crimes and atrocities in the past.
Jabhat al-Nusra, the branch of al-Qaeda that fought and killed American and allied troops in Iraq, have positioned themselves in Syria and control the rebel movement.
The U.S. and other Western governments that are backing the FSA (Free Syrian Army), have acknowledged the presence of jihadists but insist that they’re only a small part of the rebel movement. However, al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups have been at the front of the rebel movement since day one of the Syrian war that began two years ago. According to German intelligence, 95 percent of the rebels aren’t even Syrian.
“Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of,” the New York Times reported last month.
In April, Abou Mohamad al-Joulani, the head of al-Nusra, pledged allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahri, the head of al-Qaeda.
Despite the evidence of al-Qaeda connections, the U.S. government continues to support the FSA.
Last week, Sens. Robert Menendez, D.-N.J., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., drafted a bill that, if passed, would directly arm the Syrian rebels with lethal weaponry. The U.S. government has so far only provided non-lethal supplies and humanitarian aid.
On Monday, Sen. John McCain made a surprise visit to Syria where he met with Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the FSA. McCain has also called for arming the rebels as well as direct U.S. military intervention in the war.
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