Lee Stranahan is in Lebanon reporting on the plight of Syrian Christians, and interviewed Archbishop Issam Darwish of the Melkite Greek community of Zahleh e Furzol, which is part of the Catholic Church. Archbishop Darwish spoke to Lee about the nature of the conflict in Syria, and the risk of having Islamist extremists take over what had been a reasonably tolerant country in terms of religious practice. In this brief excerpt, Archbishop Darwish wonders aloud what the West is doing by intervening on behalf of the rebels:
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Meanwhile, the nature of the Syrian rebels became a little more clear yesterday:
Key Syrian Islamist rebel groups said late Tuesday that they do not recognise any foreign-based opposition group including the National Coalition.
“The National Coalition and the proposed government under (recently chosen) Ahmad Tomeh does not represent us, nor do we recognise it,” said 13 of Syria’s most powerful Islamist rebel groups.
The groups include members of the main rebel Free Syrian Army and more radical Islamists.
Among the signatories are Liwa al-Tawhid, the main rebel force in the northern province of Aleppo, and the jihadist Al-Nusra Front.
The radical but non-jihadist Ahrar al-Sham also signed on, as did the 19th Division, a significant but relatively new addition to the mainstream FSA.
That would be the SNC and the FSA that the US has insisted can control post-rebellion Syria and install a moderate, tolerant government in its aftermath. What do they want in a post-Assad Syria? Three guesses:
“These forces call on all military and civilian groups to unite in a clear Islamic context that… is based on sharia (Islamic) law, making it the sole source of legislation,” they said.
Patrick Brennan puts this in perspective at The Corner:
It’s important to note that, when proponents of intervention in Syria claim extremist groups are marginal and say they represent at most, say, 30 or 35 percent of the rebels, that’s referring to al-Qaeda-linked and global-jihadist groups, which already had a testy relationship with the SNC (more skeptical observers contend it could be more like half and half).
The groups that just rejected the SNC do include those groups, but they also include much of the good half, or two-thirds, or whatever. They’ve always been Islamist, and we knew it, but the best hope was that their notional political loyalty to the SNC meant some acknowledgement of and some respect for the SNC’s democratic, secular goals, despite almost very group’s explicit belief that sharia should be the source of legislation, etc. But now they’ve rejected the group the West considered legitimate on the grounds that . . . essentially, according to their statement, the West considered it legitimate, and they want more pure adherence to sharia. …
A Syria analyst for Jane’s describes the rebellious signatories as including ”most core [Syrian National Council/Syrian Military Council] units,” and says, “The entire nature of the [Syrian] opposition may well have undergone a massive shift tonight, with very significant implications for” the Syrian National Council.
As Archbishop Darwish asks, what is the West thinking by sending weapons to the FSA under these conditions?