Any diplomatic initiative on Syria coming from Russia, whose UN votes have perpetuated Assad's killing machine for over two years, should be viewed with extreme suspicion. Nevertheless, the latest Russian proposal merits serious consideration.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's proposal, which exploited an offhand remark by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, calls for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal in exchange for a cancellation of the U.S. military action against Syria being debated by Congress. Russian national interests underlie this proposal: helping Russia's last Mideast client state to survive, reinforcing the image of Russia as a Mideast power broker, and diminishing the perception that Russia supports chemical weapons use. But these interests intersect with US interests insofar as a diplomatic solution decreases the odds of an Islamist takeover of Syria (should U.S. strikes actually alter the balance of power between the Syrian regime and the opposition) while possibly removing the need for potentially risky and costly U.S. military action -- without further undermining U.S. credibility.
The humanitarian justification for intervention -- with over two million Syrian refugees and 110,000 dead -- grows stronger by the day. The geo-strategic reasons for U.S. action are also manifest: Syria's chemical weapons could be used unpredictably by the Assad regime, its terrorist ally Hezbollah, or Islamist rebels; rogue regimes like North Korea and Iran will view U.S. inaction as a green light to oppose U.S. interests where they see fit (particularly with respect to their nuclear plans); and the toppling of Assad's regime -- Iran's closest ally -- would weaken the Iranian regime while signaling that it is next unless diplomacy quickly resolves the Iranian nuclear standoff. more >>
Our allies among the Syrian rebels have issued a memorandum to the State Department on strategies for the day after Assad falls. David Ignatius reports in his column today that the Free Syrian Army (SFA) has outlined a "Damascus plan" for "handling the power vacuum in case of a sudden Assad collapse." This plan is grossly flawed.
Not the least problem, as Ignatius points out, is that the plan relies on the United States - presumably using American troops - to take out not just Assad's stockpiles of chemical weapons but also the command and control for them. President Obama and his chief congressional supporters have ruled out American boots on the ground in Syria. Right? (See Andrew McCarthy's important observation regarding this pledge.)
Another crucial point in the rebels' strategic memorandum involves revenge killings. This is a major concern, as the Syrian conflict is at its core a civil war within Islam. The regime identifies with the minority Alawite sect that is allied with Hezbollah militias supported by Shiite theocratic Iran, while the rebels, largely Sunnis, are bolstered by al-Qaeda terrorists and other Sunni jihadist fighters and supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Sunni regimes. Christians, who account for 10 percent (or more, when Iraqi refugees are counted) of the population and who have not taken up arms in this conflict are viewed by the two sides as aligned with the regime. They are the most vulnerable, since they have no militias or army to protect them. more >>
The head of a global evangelical organization that represents over 600 million Christians worldwide is calling for global action to help stem the refugee crisis in the Kingdom of Jordan.
Geoff Tunnicliffe, chief executive officer and secretary general for the World Evangelical Alliance, told The Christian Post about the refugee situation on the Jordan-Syrian border. "There's a crisis here with the refugees. Imagine 30 million people arriving in the United States in the last six months as refugees. That's the kind of percentage of people that we're talking about that are now in Jordan," said Tunnicliffe.
"So you can imagine the strain that's on the government and the NGOs and so one of the things that we want to do is draw attention to this crisis and call upon our community to respond in a very significant way to help the refugees." more >>
Christian leaders in the Middle East believe that a U.S. military intervention in Syria will have a "detrimental effect" on Christians in the region, Geoff Tunnicliffe of the World Evangelical Alliance said in a statement to the White House on Thursday.
Tunnicliffe, who serves as the secretary general for the global evangelical group, is currently attending a conference in Amman, Jordan, to address the plight of "Arab Christians," particularly those in Egypt and Syria. The conference was convened by Jordan's King Abdullah II and attended by California's Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, Christian Hollywood producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, and several Middle Eastern Christian leaders.
After speaking at the conference, Tunnicliffe sent a letter to the White House and the United Nation's Security Council saying that the majority of Christian leaders he spoke to from the Syria region discourage military action in their country, saying such intervention would have a "detrimental effect" on Christians in the region. more >>
Malaysia's government has banned a well-known American heavy metal band from performing a concert in their country, saying some of the band's lyrics could be interpreted as being religiously insensitive and blasphemous.
The Virginia-based, Grammy-nominated heavy metal band "Lamb of God" was initially slated to play in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur, on September 28, but the country's Communications and Multimedia Ministry refused to grant the band a permit after the Department of Islamic Development publicly complained about the band's lyrics.
Authorities in Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation, said that the band has previously taken excerpts from the Quran, and therefore allowing the band to play would be an insult to Malaysia's religious and cultural customs. Additionally, the government-led department for Islam argued that the lyrics could confuse Malaysians and lead them astray. more >>
Egypt's interior minister survived an apparent assassination attempt on his motorcade in Cairo on Thursday. The country continues to be embroiled in violent clashes between loyalists to ousted President Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and the military government, although the Muslim Brotherhood has denied any involvement in Thursday's attack.
The attack took place as Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the country's police force, traveled with his motorcade through Cairo's Nasr City district, where his official residence is located. A bomb exploded in Ibrahim's motorcade, and although Ibrahim was not harmed, at least 10 other people were injured, and police claim to have killed two of the attackers.
It is still unclear how the bomb was detonated; some media outlets are stipulating that the bomb was attached to a car, while others are saying it was thrown from a nearby building, landing in the center of the motorcade. The attack may have also involved a suicide bomber and additional shooters, but more will not be known until authorities are able to comb through the damage. Photos posted on social media websites show a large explosion area with charred vehicles and debris littering the streets. more >>