To that end, despite the Syrian government’s horrific, murderous crackdown on civilian protesters, Syrian Christians have mostly stayed away from the street protests, worried that the alternative to the Assad regime is, according to former Israeli ambassador Itamar Rabinovich, “chaos, civil war, and possibly a radical Islamist takeover.”
As was the case in Libya, that latter possibility becomes more of a reality as Islamist terror movements in and out of Syria are vying to gain influence over the Syrian revolt in hopes of gathering power if Assad falls.
For example, Sheikh Adnan al-Arour, a Syrian Salafi cleric exiled in Saudi Arabia, has been calling for jihad against the “infidel” Assad regime. Al-Arour’s exhortations have garnered him the open allegiance of several Syrian Islamist rebel brigades, including “Supporters of God Brigade” in Hama, which has praised him as “the leader of the revolution.”
In eastern Syria, the “God is Great” Brigade proclaimed its formation in an internet video that declared their fight to be a “jihad,” and which they exhorted “our fellow revolutionaries…to declare jihad in the path of God.”
The Syrian Islamist brigades are also getting assistance from outside terror organizations and mercenaries from Iraq and Libya, aid which Director of National Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged in February when he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that “al-Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria.”
That terrorist reach was on display recently when the Al-Nusra Front, a front group for al-Qaeda in Iraq according to US intelligence officials, claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing in Damascus that killed 27 and wounded more than 100.
Finally, evidence of the rising Islamist influence in the Syrian uprising was on view when several prominent figures quit the Syrian National Council (SNC), the most widely-recognized coalition of anti-regime forces, alleging that the Muslim Brotherhood had “hijacked” the SNC agenda.
It should be noted that the news of the Islamist crackdown on Christians comes at the same time that the UN is reporting that Syrian rebels are using children as fighters and are kidnapping, torturing and executing supporters of Bashar Assad and members of his security forces.
Nevertheless, President Obama has reacted to the growing sectarian violence in Syria by recently pledging to send “non-lethal” aid to the Syrian rebels, such as communications help and medical aid.
However, given the attacks it has suffered at their hands, the President may want to earmark some of those humanitarian supplies to Syria’s besieged Christian community.
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