Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Motivating The Kremlin

"I have been asking fellow bishops, priests and lay people about what they think of the Russian involvement, and they say they find some hope in it because they are desperate for the end of this war."
"As long as Europe and the U.S. have been involved, we have seen no results, but with the Russian intervention maybe things will change."
"Perhaps it will help destroy Daesh and push the opposition to find a solution."
Archbishop Jean-Clement Jean-bart, Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Aleppo

"We asked them [United States alliance] to give us the information on the targets that they believe to be 100 percent terrorists and they refused to do that."
"We then asked to please tell us which targets are not terrorists, and there was no answer, so what are we supposed to do? I am not making this up."
"I think some of our partners simply have mush for brains. They do not have a clear understanding of what is really happening in the country and what goals they are seeking to achieve."
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russia Syria airstrikes
Russian Defence Ministry/AFP/Getty Images A video grab made on Oct. 6, 2015, shows an image taken from footage made available on the Russian Defense Ministry's official website on Oct. 5, purporting to show a Russia's Su-24M bomber dropping bombs during an airstrike in Syria.
"Russia's ties to the region are rooted in its self-assigned role as the defender of Orthodox Christianity, which it claimed to inherit from the Byzantine Caesars after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The czars presented Moscow not just as a Third Rome, but also as a New Jerusalem, and protector of Christians in the Balkans and the Arab word, which, including the Holy Places of Jerusalem, were ruled by the Ottomans after 1517."
Simon Sebag Montefiore, historical writer

Christianity, it is true, has long been under attack throughout the Middle East, with the slow but enduring rise of Islamism. Leading to a mass migration of Christians from the very geography where the world-wide religion was born. The most ancient branches of Middle East Christianity maintained a struggling foothold in the landscape that has become most hostile to their survival. Christians have pleaded with leaders in the West to help their survival, but the response has been one of disinterest.

In Syria, as in Iraq, Christians find their presence threatened by the Islamist orthodoxy of Sunni Islam. Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabist Islam is practised in its 'pure' form, is blatantly hostile to the presence of any religion other than Islam, similar to Iran, a Shiite theocracy. But in the Alawite Baathist regime of Bashar al Assad, the ancient Christian community enjoyed a supportive atmosphere, so trust in the Assad regime and fear of the Sunni jihadis is a natural enough result.

Under the Sunni Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, Christians also enjoyed a semi-protected status. But the eventual rise of the Islamic State has seen Iraqi Christians, Kurds, Yazidis and other minorities targeted for extermination. Russia, with its tradition of orthodox eastern Christianity to the rescue, has aligned itself with the Syrian regime for a number of reasons, not least the protection of the eastern Orthodox church, its renaissance of influence in the Mideast, and the Tartus naval base.

And, oh yes, the opportunity to rub the American-led airstrikes' nose into the unfortunate reality that it has accomplished very little in eliminating the threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Russian strikes, in collaboration with the Syrian military on the ground, with the al-Quds Republican Guard Corps and the Hezbollah militias taking up rearguard action would make all the difference. Certainly Syrian Christians seem to think their salvation lies in Russia's intervention.

Moscow faces risks whichever decision it took. To remain out of intervening in the Syrian conflict while jihadists from the Caucasus fight in their thousands with Islamic State is to remain unduly complacent in the face of the real possibility that those fighters will return to their homeland with the intention of continuing the fight for Islamic conquest not just in Russia's backyard, but in the garden out front, opening the gate to enter the home itself.

Vladimir Putin's argument that containing the extremists represents a national security concern for Russia in view of the North Caucasus restiveness, is a persuasive argument. And it is one that the head of Jabhat al-Nusra has taken seriously. Abu Mohammed al-Jolani is now calling for a response in kind to Russia's cruise missile attacks against factions in conflict with Bashar al-Assad's forces.

"The new Russian invasion is the last arrow in the quiver of the enemies of the Muslims. If the Russian soldier kills from the masses of [Syria], kill from their masses. And if they kill from our soldiers, kill from theirs. One for one." Moreover, a bounty has been placed by Mr. Jolani of $3.4-million for Assad's death. "Should this ruler not be killed? The poison is in the head of the snake".

Hezbollah's leader Hasan Nasrallah also is on a bounty. His head will result in a $2.3-million reward. And after the al-Nusra leader's stirring speech to his jihadi followers, two mortars were sent as gifts landing in the perimeter of the Russian Embassy in Damascus. It is when Chechen jihadis launch their gifts within Moscow that the Kremlin will tremble, however.

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