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Screenshot from report on Syrian Christian Churches.

Christians in Syria mourn the death of Iranian general

The US "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran has surprised at least one blogger, an American analyst who is knowledgeable about the Middle East and speaks Arabic fluently.

Published: January 9, 2020, 11:32 am

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    Colonel Pat Lang noted that it “must be a terrible thing for intelligence analysts of integrity and actual Middle East knowledge and experience to have to try to brief Trump on Iran”. According to Lang, Trump is being told that Iran is the worst enemy ever. Previously, it was Iraq.

    In Aleppo, in Syria, news in Arabic showed several Christian churches in the city where the two slain men, General Soleimani and deputy chief of the Popular Mobilisation in Iraq Committee Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, are described from the pulpit and in the street as “heroic martyr victims of criminal American state terrorism”.

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo likes to describe Soleimani as the instigator of “massacre” and “genocide” in Syria. However, the Syriac, Armenian Uniate and Presbyterian ministers of the Gospel in Syria clearly do not see him and al-Muhandis that way.

    They actually see them as men who helped to defend Aleppo and its minority Christian populations from the wrath of Sunni jihadi Salafists like ISIS and the Al Qaida-affiliates in Syria. And they see them and Lebanese Hizbullah as having helped save these Christians by fighting alongside the Syrian Army, Russia and other allies like the Druze and Christian militias.

    “It should be remembered that the US was intent on and may still be intent on replacing the multi-confessional government of Syria with the forces of medieval tyranny,” said Lang.

    Everyone who really knows anything about the Syrian War knows that the essential character of the New Syrian Army, so beloved by Senator John McCain and Lindsay Graham, was always jihadist “and it was always fully supported by Wahhabi Saudi Arabia as a project in establishing Sunni triumphalism” he added.

    “They and the self proclaimed jihadis of HTS (AQ) are still supported in both Idlib and western Aleppo provinces by the Saudis and the present Islamist and neo-Ottoman government of Turkey,” according to Lang.

    There are Christmas trees in the newly re-built Christian churches of Aleppo and the congregants in Christ remember who stood by them when they were attacked and killed.

    Currently there are at least 600 churches and 500 000 to 1 000,000 Christians in Iran. There are no churches in Saudi Arabia and Christianity is a banned religion.

    The real-life situation for Christians in Syria is very different from what is being reported in the mainstream media.

    “Back in November I had the privilege of meeting Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard,” Reverend Franklin Graham told his Facebook audience. “Not only does she represent the 2nd District of the state of Hawaii, but she is a Major in the Hawaii Army National Guard and served in Iraq. She is one tough lady, and I was impressed with her insights on the Middle East.

    “She recently went to Syria in search of the truth — she wanted to see for herself what the situation really is. She met with refugees, the people of Aleppo, and President Bashar al-Assad. I would like for you to watch her incredible video of Aleppo and her interview with Rev. Ibrahim Nseir of the Arab Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Aleppo whose building was bombed and destroyed by Islamists.

    “Rev. Nseir said the Islamic State thought that when they destroyed the building, it would destroy the church—but it didn’t. These Christians who have survived are going to stay in this ravaged, rubble-strewn city that has been a place of death for so many and they will continue to carry the name of Christ—and life—in this part of the world where Christianity began.

    “The Apostle Paul said followers of Jesus Christ were first called Christians in Antioch, just 70 or so miles from Aleppo. Listen to what this bold pastor has to say—and pray for Christians in the Middle East.”

    Moreover, the “evil” Iranian government erected a memorial to Jewish Iranian soldiers who were killed fighting in the Iranian Army in the Iran-Iraq War. According to the latest data there are still about 8 500 Iranian Jews resident in the country and quite a few synagogues.

    As a reminder, there are no Jewish “citizens” of Saudi Arabia and of course there are no synagogues in the country allied with the US.

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    • LuciusAnnaeusSeneca

      Christians are the largest religious sect in Syria–about 20% prior to the civil war–after the Sunnis, who total between 45% and 50% and include both Sunni Arabs (Hanafis) and Sunni Kurds (Shafis). The Sunni Arabs of Syria are quite close to those of Iraq, and include the same tribes and tribal confederations. Most are resentful of the Assads, non-Muslim sectarians who took power from a Sunni government in 1970, and have been trying to regain power ever since. Prior to the latest attempt, the civil war, the major effort was in the 1980s, with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a venture that resulted in the horrific siege of Hama and the death of at least 20,000 Sunnis at the hands of Assad’s military. Memories are long in Syria, and the hatred and resentment among the Sunni Arabs smouldered for three decades until the Sunni Arabs could support the jihadis, from al-Qaeda to an-Nusra to ISIS. Many Sunnis actively supported the ISIS pseudo-state with recruits and financial support. They also ran the sex slave trade for ISIS.

      In all this, Syria’s minorities–Christians, Alawites/Nusayris, Druze, Yazidis, Isma’ili Shi’a, and Imami Shi’a–all remained loyal to Assad. Many suffered terribly for their loyalty to the regime, but Assad’s forces, with Russian help, finally turned the tide. The Syrian army had, and still has, many recruits from these religious minorities who are from families and communities that were victimized by ISIS and other jihadists. Some Syrian minorities, in particular the Imami (“twelver”) Shi’a, formed militia units, and received aid from Iran, fellow Imami Shi’a. Hence the Iran connection. In the broader sense, Iran and Russia provided aid to the Assad regime, and Russia ultimately overtook Iran in military support, effectively becoming Assad’s patron. But the Iranians still worked hard with their aid, to preserve what influence they could with Assad.

      All the above is the context in which Iranian aid to the Assad government in Syria, and those who were helped by it (including Christians) should be viewed. Much Iranian aid was coordinated through Iran’s agents, one of the principal of whom was Soleimani.

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