Syria's Tree of Liberty in Danger
October 08, 2019
A virtual "tree of liberty" in the Middle East in Syria is in danger today, as the Trump administration prepares to pull out of a region at the border of Turkey and northeast Syria that is both friendly to U.S. interests and respectful of genuine religious freedom. As we have previously discussed, "It is an oft-overlooked story that in the wake of ISIS's genocide, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces established a semi-autonomous area in northeast Syria in which religious freedom flourished and religious minorities were protected. Pluralism thrived and democracy began to gain a foothold." And in that oasis of freedom, Christians and other people of faith found refuge, but now they face possible annihilation as U.S. forces prepare to leave, and Turkey plans to invade.
This announced withdrawal of the U.S. forces in the area has drawn wide-spread opposition and concern. Politico reports that Senate GOP leaders are urging the president to reconsider, noting "(i)n February, 70 senators supported a nonbinding amendment backing U.S. operations in both Syria and Afghanistan."
On Monday's Washington Watch I spoke with Chris Mitchell, Middle East bureau chief for CBN News in Jerusalem, who reported that Kurds in that region, who have protected Christians, "are feeling terrified that they're going to be the victims, especially of these jihadist groups that are allied with the Turkish army. I've been hearing that they're amassing on the borders even right now."
When Turkey was last in the region in March of 2018, the Turkish army and their allies "burned churches, they killed Christians, they hunted down Christians. And they ethnically cleansed that city of Kurds, hundreds of thousands of Kurds," noted Mitchell.
Faced with such a threat, the regional government may be forced to make a dangerous alliance. Mitchell noted that the relatively free region may feel forced to make an alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rather than face the wrath of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is known to hate the Kurds. But the alliance with Assad would most likely bring Russian and Iranian forces into Northeast Syria.
"(G)eopolitically, it could be a catastrophe if Turkey comes in and this whole area may be given back to the Assad regime," Mitchell reported.
Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin, who also joined Washington Watch yesterday, agreed with Mitchell's assessment and added that such a change also puts another key ally in the region at risk -- Israel.
Those moving into the region with Turkey want to "destroy Israel, to wipe Israel off the map," Boykin said. And if they can take that area "that's the land bridge" Iran needs to reach to the Mediterranean Sea and ultimately Israel.
"This is a bad situation emerging here, and what I am really afraid of is that you're going to see such a shift in the balance of power in that whole part of the world as a result of this, because you bring Russia, Iran and the government of Bashar al-Assad together there and the country of Syria. And what does that portend for the future? It portends a huge threat to Israel, but it is also potentially a huge threat to the rest of the Middle East," the general observed.
Also joining me on the radio show, Travis Weber, FRC's Director of the Center for Religious Liberty and Vice President of Policy, explained why this Middle East conflict affects Americans here at home. "The reason we're interested in it is the same reason we ultimately care about religious freedom here at home," he said. "We want to advocate for the right of every person to ...live out their faith free, without fear of repercussion, by the government, (or) by social forces in society."
The people in the Middle East, facing Turkey's military might are "not asking for us to do this for them," to fight their battle or win their war, said Weber, "They're just saying, can you support us? And I'm looking at them thinking these are natural allies for the United States."
Please join us in praying for President Trump to make the right decisions, and for the Christians and others in the region.
Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.