Two week ago, a Syrian opposition group battling the Assad regime near Aleppo by the name of Nour al-Din al-Zinki captured 12-year-old Abdullah Issa. Soldiers of Nour al-Din al-Zinki determined the boy was a spy for the regime and beheaded him, with the requisite gruesome video recording of the event. The group’s leadership later tweeted this act was one of “individual error that does not represent the general policy of the movement.”
Such a heinous act – how does one express adequate outrage at the murder of children in this way? – tells us three things about the Syrian conflict.
- There are No Moderate Opposition Groups in Syria
Nour al-Din al-Zinki has received funding, training and arms from the United States as part of our terribly counter-productive policy in Syria. This is purportedly one of the “moderate” opposition groups which, we are assured, will govern Syria as a pluralistic democracy. The reality is there are no opposition groups which can be relied upon to allow Christians to live in peace in the post-conflict Syria, where they are in charge.
- Turkey Does Not Share American Interests with Regard to the Middle East
Nour al-Din al-Zinki has also received support from Turkey. We do not know whether Turkey persuaded the U.S. to support the organization, or if these were independent decisions. But Turkey does support the radical Ahrar al-Sham organization, which has demanded that post-conflict Syria be governed under Sharia law. It is not surprising, therefore, that Turkey supports an organization capable of barbarism. Turkey does not envision a post-conflict Syria in which Christians can live in peace any more than its surrogates do.
- The United States Should Commit Itself to Protecting Christians and Other Religious Minorities in Syria
US Syrian policy is now in incoherent tatters. There are perhaps as many as one million Christians and other religious minorities still living in Syria. No one speaks for them in the on-again/off-again peace negotiations underway in Geneva. Our last opportunity to do some good in Syria is to push for a genuine ceasefire, and insure that the new Syria intended to emerge from the UN-sponsored peace process be a place where Christians and other non-Muslims can live as equal citizens.
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