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2018-12-28 13:55:19 Views : 248 |

News: The future of Syria and Christians, if US troops withdraw

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by Vladimir Rozanskij, 12/27/2018



Russia could become the protector of the country and of Christians. But in the meantime international powers - such as Britain and France - and regional powers - like Turkey and Israel - are claiming areas of influence, opening up new fronts of confrontation and insecurity for its population and Syria. Two days ago Israeli aircraft attacked a Syrian military base in Qatifah, about 40 km northeast of Damascus.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - President Donald Trump's annnouncement of the withdrawal of US troops from Syria has handed the role of main defender of the nation and protecter of Christians in the Middle East. But it also creates an imbalance that gives space to international powers - such as Britain and France - and regional powers - like Turkey and Israel - to establish and claim areas of influence, opening new fronts of confrontation and insecurity for the country and its population. Two days ago Israeli aircraft attacked a Syrian military base in Qatifah, about 40 km northeast of Damascus (see photo).  Tel Aviv responded with silence to the charges laid by the Syrian government and the criticism of Moscow. An anonymous Israeli security official confirmed the raids yesterday evening, saying that they were targeting some Iranian weapons depots destined for Hezbollah. Yesterday, Russia criticized the aerial bombardments, saying that they put some civilian flights at risk. Moscow did not specify which flights, but said that one of them had to make an emergency landing in Beirut and another in Damascus.

The situation in Syria is again uncertain and full of concerns. The announcement of US President Donald Trump on the "definitive victory" over ISIS, and the withdrawal of American troops, makes Christmas this year a time to ask whether it is really appropriate to celebrate triumph, or instead prepare for new torments.

The celebrations of Christians are rather varied and staggered; in Syria there is little more than 1.5 million Christians (almost 10% of the total population), which belong to different rites and traditions. The Syrian land preserves the memory of primitive Christianity, being the theater of the first great apostolic mission, that of St. Paul and of St. Peter himself. The ancient capital of Antioch could have competed with Rome, as the primatial seat of the universal Church, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans at the end of the first century. The tradition of the "Syrian fathers" constitutes the true ancient Christian East, whereas Greeks and Latins were the two "Western" variants. It is the culture closest to the Semitic origins of Jesus and the apostles, today witnessed by Catholics and Orthodox, but also and above all by the most eastern rites of the Chaldeans, Jacobites, Armenians and others.

Among the many victims of the war of recent years between the so-called "Islamic State" and the various opposing powers (United States, France, Turkey, Russia), Christians are among those who have suffered most, ending up between the anvil of extremists and the hammer of the government. Their presence in the region is strongly at risk, so much so that it pushed the Orthodox patriarch of Moscow Kirill to accept the historic meeting with Pope Francis in Havana, in February 2016, precisely to join forces in defense of the Christians of Syria and Iraq. The disappearance of Christianity in Syria, in addition to the martyrdom of many, would in fact constitute an irreparable loss for the whole Christian world.

The Christians are not alone in their concern for the departure of thousands of US special forces soldiers, with the many artillery and territory control bodies. The main allies of the Americans, the Syrian Kurds, are now alone to face the possible  invasion of the Turks, their historical adversaries. Moreover, Trump's decision is not accompanied by the pacification of the region, where there are pockets of terrorists led by the unknowable leader Al-Baghdadi.

The Americans, together with their allies, currently control a little more than a quarter of the Syrian territory, torn from ISIS in recent years, dividing it from the rest of the country by tacit agreement with Russia, the other power present in Syria. An agreement, moreover, that is rather precarious: not infrequently there were isolated conflicts between the "Americans" and the "Russians", even with episodes of armed conflict. Russia along with the Syrian government, which it supported, has repeatedly called for the withdrawal of American troops from the country, since "no one invited them". Americans have always responded that they were  acting on the principle of self-defense, in the war against Islamic terrorism, annihilating anyone who tried to enter the territory controlled by them.

Trump's decision therefore seems to be a total transfer of control to Russia, even as the Kurdish allies are attempting a last assault on the Isis stronghold, between the Euphrates River and the Iranian border, where Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi himself is believed to be in hiding. Trump would have recognized the inability of the Americans to finish this job, leaving him in the hands of the Russians and the Syrians. In the north, the Turks are pressing, eager to take control of the Kurdish lands.

The Western allies, Europeans and Israel, immediately protested against the "retreat" announced by Trump, while the Kurdish representatives spoke of "stabbing in the back". Only the Turkish president Erdogan praised the American decision, taken immediately after a phone call between Trump and Erdogan himself. The British and French have announced that they will remain in the area until the final defeat of ISIS, but their contingents are too limited to hope to be able to dominate the situation, even if at least the support of the American airforce should remain.

The only possibility of avoiding a Turkish invasion of Kurdistan, in reality, would be the extension of the Russian protectorate to the entire Syrian territory, which has always been Putin's goal. This would sanction the centrality of Russia as a decisive superpower for the world balance, returning to the splendor of Soviet times. For international balances this could prove to be a big problem, but the Christians of Syria would certainly be grateful, willingly  recognizing Russia as the title of "first global Christian power " , suspended between East and West.


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