Frustrated by the latest failure of the United States and Russia to agree on a ceasefire in Syria, Bret Stephens writes in today’s Wall Street Journal (September 6) that Syria should be partitioned into separate countries, like the former Yugoslavia. He proposes an Alawite state along the Mediterranean coast, a Syrian Kurdish state in the northeast, along the Turkish border, and “the rest of Syria,” the pacification of which “would require a limited but decisive NATO intervention to rout ISIS from its strongholds, equip and aid the Free Syrian Army so that it can lift the siege of Aleppo and march on Damascus, and enjoin Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to deploy a long-term Arab stabilization force.”
In other words, a Sunni-dominated Syria expunged of Christians and other religious minorities.
The half a million to one million Christians who still reside in Syria are found in five areas. They live in the northeast, around the cities Hassake and Qamishli, which is under Kurdish control. And they live in the cities of Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs, and in the Wadi (Valley) of Christians, all currently controlled by the Assad regime.
By handing over “the rest of Syria” to the administration of the Free Syrian Army and Sunni nations states, the Stephens solution would leave Christians a safe haven only in the Kurdish zone, where there have been clashes between Christians and Kurds, but also cooperation between Christian militias and Kurdish forces in the fight against the Islamic State.
The Free Syrian Army has shown a reckless disregard for the safety and dignity of Christians, as when they gratuitously razed the Christian neighborhood of old Homs two years ago – if indeed the Free Syrian Army is even capable of holding on to territory against its more extremist and more Islamist competitors. And the domestic situation of Christians in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Emirates, and Turkey tells you all you need to know about the likelihood of a Christian presence being allowed to exist under their “Arab stabilization force.”
The partitioning of Syria is like the original effort to remove Assad through force of arms: a failure of imagination. We disagree it is time to give up on the formation of a pluralistic Syria in which Christians live in peace and enjoy equal citizenship. It is time, instead, to get serious about that goal.