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Posts tagged ‘Damascus’

Long-Suffering Syrian Christians Fear Future.

Sami Amir is used to the deep, echoing rumble of the Syrian army artillery pounding rebel positions on the outskirts of Damascus. It’s the thump of mortars launched from an Islamist-controlled neighborhood that scares him to death.

The mortars have repeatedly struck his mainly Christian district of Damascus, al-Qassaa, reportedly killing at least 32 people and injuring dozens of others in the past two weeks.

“You don’t know when and you don’t know where they hit,” says Amir, 55, a Christian merchant. “Life here is often too difficult.”

Rebel shelling into the capital has increasingly hit several majority-Christian districts, particularly al-Qassaa, with its wide avenues, middle-class apartment blocks, leafy parks, popular restaurants, and shopping streets busy with pedestrians.

The shelling and recent rebel assaults on predominantly Christian towns have fueled fears among Syria’s religious minorities about the growing role of Islamic extremists and foreign fighters among the rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad‘s rule.

Christians think they are being targeted — in part because of the anti-Christian sentiment among extremists and in part as punishment for what is seen as their support for Assad.

Though some Christians oppose Assad’s brutal crackdown on the opposition, the rebellion’s increasingly outspoken Islamist rhetoric and the prominent role of Islamic extremist fighters have pushed them toward support of the government. Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria’s 23 million people.

“When you bring a Christian and make him choose between Assad and the Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant, the answer is clear,” said Hilal Khashan, a political science  professor at the American University of Beirut, referring to the al-Qaeda branch fighting alongside the rebels. “It doesn’t need much thinking.”

The rebels have targeted other Syrian minorities, particularly Alawites, the Shiite offshoot sect to which Assad belongs and which is his main support base. All together, ethnic and religious minorities — also including Kurds and Druze — make up a quarter of Syria’s population. The majority, and most rebels, are Sunni Muslim.

But Christian areas have recently been the focus of fighting.

A week ago, rebels from the al-Qaeda-linked group Jabhat al-Nusra attacked the Christian town of Sadad, north of Damascus, seizing control until they were driven out Monday after fierce fighting with government forces. The rebels appear to have targeted the town because of its strategic location near the main highway north of Damascus, rather than because it is Christian.

Still, SANA reported Monday that the rebels in Sadad had vandalized the town’s St. Theodore Church, along with much of Sadad’s infrastructure.

Similarly, thousands fled the ancient Christian-majority town of Maaloula when rebels took control of it last month, holding it for several days until government forces retook it. With rebels in the hills around the town, those who fled are still too afraid to return.

Two bishops were abducted in rebel-held areas in April, and an Italian Jesuit priest, the Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio, went missing in July after traveling to meet al-Qaeda militants in the rebel-held northeastern city of Raqqa. None has been heard from since.

In August, rebel gunmen killed 11 people in a drive-by shooting in central Syria as Christians celebrated a feast day. Activists said at the time that many of those killed were pro-government militiamen manning checkpoints.

Al-Qaeda-linked fighters have damaged and desecrated churches in areas they have seized.

In Raqqa, militants set fires in two churches and knocked the crosses off them, replacing them with the group’s black Islamic banner.

Jihadis also torched an Armenian church in the northern town of Tel Abyad on Sunday, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad group that tracks the war through a network of activists on the ground.

The apparently deliberate campaign against Christians and other minorities has stoked worries in Washington and many European capitals over providing advanced weaponry to the mainstream opposition Free Syria Army, amid fears the arms will end up in the hands of extremists.

Christians in Damascus are convinced that extremists are deliberately targeting their neighborhoods as rebels battle government forces trying to uproot them from the towns they control outside the capital. Al-Qassaa is close to besieged rebel-held suburbs where Muslim residents have pleaded for international help to save them from starvation and constant government bombardment.

“Recently I noticed that every Sunday, they launch more than 15 mortars a day,” Amir said. “They are targeting specifically Christian areas.”

The most recent shells in al-Qassaa hit Thursday on the doorstep of a fashion clothing shop and next to a wall of a local hospital, killing three young men and damaging a church and several cars, which were left riddled by shrapnel.

Hundreds of Christians have fled al-Qassaa to other areas of the capital or into neighboring Lebanon. Nationwide, about 450,000 Christians have fled their homes, part of an exodus of about 7 million during the 2 1/2-year civil war, church officials say.

Almost all the 50,000 Christians in the mixed city of Homs have fled, and another 200,000 have fled the northern city of Aleppo, both battleground cities. When insurgents occupied the strategic central town of Qusair in 2012, about 7,000 Catholics were forced out and their homes were looted.

Thousands who fled Maaloula have found refuge in the al-Qassaa and other Christian districts of Damascus. Maaloula was a major tourist attraction before the civil war, home to two of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria. Some of the residents still speak a version of Aramaic, the language of biblical times, thought to have been used by Jesus.

Youssef Naame and his wife, Norma, an elderly Christian couple from Maaloula, described how bearded extremist Islamists stormed the northeastern village early last month chanting, “God is Great!”

“The jihadis shouted: Convert to Islam, or you will be crucified like Jesus,” Youssef said with a shaky voice in his daughter’s al-Qassaa apartment.

He said they were trapped with other Christians for three days in a small house next to the town church, without food or electricity.

“There were snipers shooting everywhere, we were not able to move,” he recalled. “We were so scared. I lost my speech.”

Syrian church leaders fear that Assad’s fall would lead to an Islamist state that would spell the end of the centuries-old existence of Christians on Syrian soil.

“We are not taking any sides in the conflict,” Bishop Luka, deputy leader of the Syriac Orthodox Church, said at his headquarters in the historic Damascus Old Town.

“We are standing alongside the country, because this country is ours,” he said. “If the country is gone, we have nothing left. Nothing will remain of us.”

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Islamist Rebels Fight Army for Christian Town in Syria.

BEIRUTIslamist rebels battled Syrian government forces on Tuesday to retain control of a historic Christian town which the insurgents has stormed a day earlier, residents said.

“There is a huge on-off battle here now, the army even used fighter jets,” said one female resident of Sadad, a town that was mentioned in the Bible.

The town is located amid several villages that support the uprising against President Bashar Assad.

It also lies next to several arms depots and opposition activists said the raid by the al-Qaida-linked-rebels was for military reasons, not religiously motivated.

The clashes could nevertheless raise anxieties among the Christian minority, who have generally tried to stay on the sidelines of sectarian conflict pitting majority Sunni Muslims against the Alawite minority and which has overshadowed the revolt against four decades of Assad family rule of Syria.

“After rebels stormed the town yesterday, they entered the main square and spoke to us on loudspeakers, telling us to stay inside. They killed anyone found in the streets,” said a resident named Elias, speaking by phone. “They didn’t come inside people’s homes though.”

Residents estimated that nine people were killed then.

They also said no government soldiers or paramilitary forces other than police had been in Sadad. Opposition activists said the town was used to launch rockets into nearby rebel-held areas.

Sources on both sides said another aim of the rebel assault was to break into Sadad’s hospital to seize medical supplies.

One resident said that by Tuesday morning the rebels seemed to have disappeared.

“We assumed it was because the army was on its way. It turned out they were in hiding in the orchards and the fields and they ambushed the army when it came,” one woman said, declining to give her name.

Sadad is strategically located between the central city of Homs, 60 kilometers (37 miles) away, and the capital Damascus, 100 kilometers (62 miles) away.

Reuters cannot always confirm reports inside Syria due to government and security restrictions.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Syria Imbroglio: Applicability Of International Law Rules And Practice By Dr. Theophilus Olusegun Obayemi, I.

I.    Introduction

We re-examine the United States-led intervention in Syria. First, our thesis is that within the context of the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”)’s decision in Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), Jurisdiction and Admissibility, 1984 ICJ REP. 392 June 27, 1986.—there has actually been “interventions” by the United States and its allies inside the Syrian borders.

Second, we argue that the United Nations General Assembly (“UNGA”) ought to have requested the ICJ to issue an Advisory Opinion on the legality and/or lawfulness of the United States and French-led intervention in Syria.

Third, humanitarian intervention towards preventing genocide and serious violations of humanitarian rights is now a jus cogens, which does not need a United Nations Security Council’s Resolution.

In a nutshell, the UNGA should have taken over the jurisdiction of the Syrian case over and above the need for a Chapter VII Security Council Resolution.

In September 2013, many international law observers had expected a full-blown attack by the United States armed forces against the Assad Syrian government. In an attempt to avoid being dragged into an unpopular military action as occurred in Vietnam and Iraq, President Barrack Obama sought ratification and support from the Congress. In the midst, Vladmir Putin, Russian Head of State offered to negotiate the peaceful surrender of chemical weapons by Assad. Salutory as the efforts to avert military confrontation may seem, international law practitioners are concerned that the rules of international law were not followed and were neither referenced in solving the impasse.

II.    Origin of the Syrian Revolution

The Arab Spring consumed the entire Arab world in 2011. A wave of civil wars, revolutionary demonstrations, protests and riots dubbed the “Arab Spring” started in December 2010 and spread across North Africa and into the Middle East in 2011. As of October 2013, rulers have been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt (twice), Libya, and Yemen. In addition, civil uprisings have erupted in Bahrain and Syria. Further, major protests broke out in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan. We also witnessed minor protests in Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Western Sahara, and the Palestinian Authority.

Of particular importance is that in March 2011, Pro-democracy protests in Syria started in earnest when a group of 200 mostly young protesters gathered in the Syrian capital Damascus to demand reforms and the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a ‘Day of Rage.’ A Facebook group called “The Syrian Revolution 2011 Syrian revolt against Bashar al-Assad” garnered more than 41,000 fans, while Syrian Twitter users tweeted for the world to pay attention. Video footage emerged showing the protests. Between March 2011 and September the Assad government battled rebels who gained significant inroads into the political control of the Syrian landmass. Then came the use of chemical weapons.

Syria has always had a “long-standing chemical warfare program”, which was first developed in the 1970s. A recent report from the US Congressional Research Service said Syria probably began stockpiling chemical weapons in 1972 or 1973, when it was given a small number of chemicals and delivery systems by Egypt before the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Further, Damascus started acquiring the materials and knowledge necessary to produce chemical weapons in the 1980s, with the help of the Soviet Union. Equipment and chemicals were also procured from European companies. While the exact size of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal is not known, in June 2012, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Deputy Chief of Staff Maj Gen Yair Nave described it as “the largest in the world”. In addition, according to a French intelligence assessment published in September 2013, Damascus has more than 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents and precursor chemicals, including:

Several hundreds of tonnes of sulphur mustard
Several hundreds of tonnes of sarin
Several tens of tonnes of VX

According to a report by UN chemical weapons inspectors, there is “clear and convincing evidence” that surface-to-surface rockets containing sarin were fired at suburbs to the east and west of Damascus in an attack on 21 August that killed hundreds of people. Further, according to US, British, French and Israeli officials, there is also evidence that Syrian government forces used sarin against rebels and civilians on several previous occasions. Finally, French intelligence said analysis of samples taken from the northern town of Saraqeb and the Damascus suburb of Jobar in April showed that munitions containing sarin had been deployed.

III.    What is “Intervention” Under International Law

To a layman, intervention would be equated to Operation Desert Storm under general Arnold Schwarznopf in 1991 or the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom. The ICJ’s decision in Nicaragua v. United States of America shows that intervention could be direct and/or indirect. Therein, the financing of rebels, aids given to insurgents, military assistance, logistics and instructors. Just as in Nicaragua in 1984, United States aided the Syrian Freedom Fighters, in recruiting, training, arming, equipping, financing, supplying and otherwise encouraging, supporting, aiding, and directing military and paramilitary actions in and against Assad.

Thus, the actual threatened direct full-scale attack against Syria was actually not the initial intervention by the United States.

IV.    Right of Humanitarian Intervention

Under contemporary rules of international law, the three paradigmatic cases justifying humanitarian intervention are genocide, slavery and widespread torture.  Thus, the notion of jus cogens in international law encompasses the notion of peremptory norms in international law. In this regard, a view has been formed that certain overriding principles of international law exist which form “a body of jus cogens.” These principles are those from which it is accepted that no State may derogate by way of treaty. As a result they are generally interpreted as restricting the freedom of States to contract while ‘voiding’ treaties whose object conflicts with norms which have been identified as peremptory.

Assuming arguendo that the Assad government used chemical weapons against its citizens, then the United States and the allieds are justified in carrying out both direct and indirect attacks against Assad’s regime.

Before the customary international right of humanitarian intervention can be exercised, there are “safeguard factors” to be observed:

• The violation of humanitarian rights is severe
• A large number of people are involved
• More than one state is involved in the use of force
• There is no gain or material self-interest on the part of the intervening states

V.    The United Nations Security Council

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action. Its powers are exercised through United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The only problem with the UNSC is the veto right by the permanent members. Under Article 27 of the UN Charter, Security Council decisions on all substantive matters require the affirmative votes of nine members. A negative vote, or veto, also known as the rule of “great power unanimity”, by a permanent member prevents adoption of a proposal, even if it has received the required number of affirmative votes (9). Abstention is not regarded as a veto despite the wording of the Charter. Since the Security Council’s inception, China (ROC/PRC) has used its veto 6 times; France 18 times; Russia/USSR 123 times; the United Kingdom 32 times; and the United States 89 times. The majority of Russian/Soviet vetoes were in the first ten years of the Council’s existence. Since 1984, China and France have vetoed three resolutions each; Russia/USSR four; the United Kingdom ten; and the United States 43.

During the Syrian crisis, Russia consistently showed that it would not support armed attack against Syria.

VI.    ICJ’s Advisory Opinions

Advisory Opinions were intended as a means by which UN agencies could seek the ICJ’s help in deciding complex legal issues that might fall under their respective mandates. Advisory Opinions were intended as a means by which UN agencies could seek the ICJ’s help in deciding complex legal issues that might fall under their respective mandates.

Based on the Syrian impasse, this author’s view is that the only alternative is the use of the United Nations General Assembly requesting the ICJ to issue an Advisory Opinion on the legality and/or lawfulness of the United States and French-led intervention in Syria. It has been argued that even though the Security Council is probably seized of the Syrian matter, that doesn’t prevent the General Assembly from asking the ICJ for an opinion on whether there is a general right to humanitarian intervention, or whether member states can use force in the absence of a Chapter VII Security Council Resolution.

Generally, the United nations General Assembly requests an advisory opinion. On receiving a request, the ICJ decides which States and organizations might provide useful information and gives them an opportunity to present written or oral statements. While, in principle, the ICJ’s advisory opinions are only consultative in character, they are influential and widely respected. The legal reasoning embodied in them reflects the ICJ ‘s authoritative views on important issues of international law and, in arriving at them, the ICJ follows essentially the same rules and procedures that govern its binding judgments delivered in contentious cases submitted to it by sovereign states.

VII.    Conclusion

It is clear that Assad regime will not hand over the chemical weapons in its possession. With compelling evidence of violations of anti-genocide and anti-torture laws, the United States and Syria submit the matter to the ICJ as to whether the current levels of intervention should be elevated to “direct armed strike” by US armed forces against the Syrian territory. The advantage is that an advisory opinion will produce a reasoned judgment as to the current state of the laws towards balancing demands of non-interference and prevention of humanitarian violations.

The United Nations Charter of 1945 certainly could not have envisaged the capability of nuclear and chemical attacks of 2013.

Dr. Theophilus Olusegun Obayemi, II is the author of Legal Standards Governing Pre-Emptive Strikes and Forcible Measures of Anticipatory Self-Defense under the U.N. Charter and General International Law, 12 ANNUAL SURVEY OF INTERNATIONAL & COMPARATIVE LAW, 19 (SPRING 2006)


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Muslim Man Wakes From Coma, Converts to Christianity.


Karim Shamsi-Basha shares the story of his conversion from Islam to Christianity in his book, 'Paul and Me.'
Karim Shamsi-Basha shares the story of his conversion from Islam to Christianity in his book, ‘Paul and Me.’ (Facebook)

Growing up as a Muslim in Syria, Karim Shamsi-Basha longed for a God of which he didn’t have to be afraid. In the Islamic world, such an ideal was simply difficult to come by.

After moving to the United States and experiencing a miracle and God’s infinite mercy, the concept became more of a reality to him.

In 1992, Shamsi-Basha suffered a sudden brain aneurysm that left him in a coma for a month. Doctors told his wife that he had less than a 10 percent chance of surviving past the first night.

When he came out of it, he began a journey—one that would take 20 years and see him endure incredible hardship—toward the full acceptance of Jesus as his savior.

His life experiences led him to write a book titled, “Paul and Me,” including chapters about the Apostle Paul, whose conversion to Christianity took place on the road to Damascus, Syria.

Shamsi-Basha told the Huffington Post UK that he practiced Islam “very seriously in his teenage years.” He prayed five times a day, walking to his mosque every day before sunrise.

“Throughout my growing up as a Muslim, I searched for a God I can love more than I can fear,” Shamsi-Basha told the Huff Post UK. “That was not available to me. Love is available in Islam, but it is not the main offering. In Christianity, it is THE total offering. What I would like to say is this: Instead of turning my back on Islam, I opened my heart to the love of God, in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Shamsi-Basha told the UK Daily Mail that his neurosurgeon, following the brain aneurysm, told him he had seen very few people go on to make a full recover and suggested that he find out why he survived. That led him on his long journey toward Christianity.

Along the way, Shamsi-Basha endured a divorce, the failure of another relationship, the death of a parent and a period of homelessness.

Meanwhile, following his father’s death, he told his family about his change in theology, and surprisingly, they were fine with it. Shamsi-Basha’s two sisters, one of who now lives in New York City, continue to practice Islam including wearing a hajib, a scarf that covers a woman’s hair.

Carpe Diem—latin for “seize the day”—has become Shamsi-Basha’s daily motto, and believes everyone should adopt it.

“If I have any ulterior motives with this book, it is to get you to seize your day,” he said.

Although his novel doesn’t say anything negative about Islam, Shamsi-Basha has a message for those practicing the religion.

“I would like to address any Muslim who might not agree with me,” Shamsi-Basha told the Huff Post UK. “Love is mentioned in the Bible more than 500 times. A generous look at the Quran, and find out it is mentioned less than 30 times. I think it is worth investigating.”


Syria conflict: Chemical arms experts cross border.

The OPCW team had to drive from Beirut into Syria because of clashes on the airport road in Damascus

A team of international disarmament experts has arrived in Syria to begin work on dismantling the country’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

Syria says it will co-operate with the mission set up after a US-Russia deal endorsed by the UN Security Council.

It is the first time the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been asked to destroy a country’s chemical arms during a war.

Correspondents say the OPCW inspectors face a daunting task.

Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, has said that seven out of the 19 chemical weapons sites declared by the government last month are in combat zones.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut says it could be complicated for the inspectors to gain access to these areas; local truces may be needed to allow the work to proceed.

Continue reading the main story

Syria’s chemical weapons

  • Syria believed to possess more than 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents and pre-cursor chemicals, including blister agent, sulphur mustard, and sarin nerve agent; also thought to have produced most potent nerve agent, VX
  • US believes Syria’s arsenal can be “delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile, and artillery rockets”
  • Syria acceded to Chemical Weapons Convention on 14 September; it signed Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in 1972 but never ratified

UN chemical weapons inspectors filed an interim report last month confirming that the nerve agent sarin had been used in an attack on the outskirts of Damascus on 21 August that killed hundreds of people.

Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal is believed to include more than 1,000 tonnes of sarin, the blister agent sulphur mustard and other banned chemicals stored at dozens of sites.

Last month, it submitted to the OPCW a full account of its arsenal, as part of the US-Russian initiative that saw it accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

An OPCW official told the AFP news agency on Sunday: “At this point, we have absolutely no reason to doubt the information provided by the Syrian regime.”

Logistics talks

The OPCW inspectors – based in The Hague – stayed overnight in Beirut, Lebanon, before crossing into Syria on Tuesday.

They will first discuss operation logistics at the foreign ministry in Damascus before verifying the sites and making assessments.

The arms monitors are then expected to destroy the equipment used for mixing and preparing chemical weapons, as well as the munitions used to deliver them.

Under the agreement between the United States and Russia, this work should be finished by November. Some chemical stocks will be removed safely and destroyed outside Syria, while others will be collected up for destruction inside the country.

A Free Syrian Army fighter fires his weapon towards snipers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Aleppo district of Salaheddine, 30 September, 2013.OPCW disarmament teams face a large and dangerous operation in the midst of fierce fighting

All this material is supposed to have been disposed of by the target date of the middle of next year.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has promised to comply with the disarmament deal. “History proves that we have always honoured all treaties we have signed,” he said in an interview with Italian television on Sunday.

Russia and America are in the process of destroying their own chemical arsenals. This process has taken years longer than expected.

Washington, Moscow and others are hoping to build on the rare consensus achieved over the chemical weapons issue, to push for peace settlement talks in Geneva. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has proposed a date in mid-November for the discussions.

But correspondents say many obstacles remain to be overcome before credible and serious negotiations can take place.

Source: BBC NEWS.

UN Probes 7 Syrian Chemical Cases, Some After Aug 21 Attack.

Image: UN Probes 7 Syrian Chemical Cases, Some After Aug 21 Attack

Chemical weapons experts in UN vehicles leave a hotel in Damascus on Sept. 26.

U.N. chemical weapons inspectors in Syria are investigating seven cases of alleged chemical or biological weapons use, including three incidents around Damascus after the Aug. 21 attack which almost triggered U.S. air strikes.The inspectors expect to finalize their work in Syria on Monday and issue a report by late October that will give more details of the Aug. 21 incident which they have already said involved the use of sarin gas, a statement from the United Nations in Damascus said on Friday.

The United States and its Western allies said the initial report showed Damascus was behind the attack, which killed hundreds of people. President Bashar al-Assad‘s government has denied the accusation, blaming rebels instead.

The incidents also include an alleged chemical weapons attack in March in the northern town of Khan al-Assal, where authorities say rebels killed 25 people, including 16 soldiers. Rebels said government forces were behind it.

The two other cases from earlier this year both date back to April – one in the Aleppo district of Sheikh Maqsoud and another in the town of Saraqeb in the northern province of Idlib.

The three most recent incidents were in Bahhariyeh and Jobar, both east of central Damascus, on Aug. 22 and 24, and Ashrafiat Sahnaya to the southwest of the capital on Aug. 25, the U.N. statement said.

The team returned to Damascus on Wednesday to resume its work and “expects to finalize its activities in the country by Monday,” the statement said.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Is Syria the Domino That Will Trigger a Global Economic Collapse?.

Destruction in Syria
A damaged building is pictured in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Basha district Tuesday. (Reuters/Molhem Barakat )

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, says he believes Syrian rebels are responsible for the chemical weapons used in the attacks on Aug. 21 that killed an estimated 1,400 Syrian civilians, including children. Western nations, including the United States, debunk those theories by pointing to the United Nations inspections, which are said to prove that the Syrian government is, indeed, responsible for gassing its own people.

I don’t wish to oversimplify the situation in Syria, but I do want to look at the events that are unfolding there from a biblical prophecy perspective and what part the United States could play within those prophecies.

The United States has been acting as the world cop for some time now. This has built up resentment toward America, and the day has to come when America will be reduced from being the world’s No. 1 superpower. According to biblical prophecy, America is not going to be a major player in the coming tribulation years.

So the question I must pose is, “What would be a worst case scenario if America attacks Syria?” Syria and its ally Iran are enemies of Israel, and these two nations have pledged to support each other in the event of war. Iran has many times threatened to bomb ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz. This shipping lane has 20 percent of the world’s oil supply passing through it daily. This event alone could cause the price of oil to double and would be a serious blow to an already weak economy in the U.S. Syria has threatened that if the U.S. attacks it, it is prepared to retaliate and is prepared to attack Israel. These threats could spill over as terrorist attacks on our soil.

The next question is, “Does Syria or Iran have the capability to launch a successful attack against our naval fleet and against Israel?” I have read many reports saying that Russia has equipped Syria and Iran with S200 and S300 cruise missiles. If these were launched against our fleet, it could mean the biggest bloody nose since the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The second facet to all this is that if we launch an attack against Syria, Syria will launch an attack against Israel. It’s possible that, if attacked, Israel could be pushed far enough against a wall that it would use what is called the “Sampson Option,” which refers to the use of nuclear weapons to push an adversary back.

The Bible predicts that the day will come when Damascus will be destroyed, never to be inhabited again. Damascus is the hub of all that is happening in Syria today. Isaiah 17:1 says, “See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins” (NIV). This prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.

The third facet of all of this is the most frightening. If the biblical prophecy that says Damascus will be destroyed is fulfilled in the coming weeks or months, the effect this could have on the world will be devastating. When a nuclear bomb goes off in the Middle East, whether it is released by Israel or the U.S., it will cause the world to believe World War III is about to start. Based on biblical prophecy, this will not be the timing for the Battle of Gog and Magog, nor will it be the timing for the Battle of Armageddon.

What will happen, however, is that people around the globe will believe it is one of the last-day wars or just the beginning of World War III. Christians in America will start to wonder, Where is the Rapture?These same Christians and non-Christians will realize a storm is coming and that they need to stock up on food and supplies for what is soon coming. Think about what happens when a snowstorm or even hurricanes are forecasted. Your grocery stores are slammed with customers, and the shelves are emptied in hours.

I have read that only 3 percent of Americans are what you would call “preppers”—people who are now preparing for the hard times that could lie ahead. All the millions of people on food stamps would not be able to get food—and neither would the average American.

If what I am describing makes sense, then you will realize it won’t take long for all that we hold dear in America to collapse. Every major city would be placed under curfew and martial law. From here, I see this as the first domino to fall that will lead to other dominoes falling that will lead the world into joining a one-world government, and this will lead us into the Great Tribulation and what I call in my book “the window of the Lord’s return.”



John Shorey is the author of The Window of the Lord’s Return, 2012-2020: Are We the Tribulation Generation?.

Could Syrian Christians Get Pulled Into Civil War

Syria civil war
Syria has been torn apart by a conflict lasting more than two years (

A huge statue of the Virgin Mary towers over churches, monasteries and mosques in the Syrian city of Maaloula, where a dialect of the Aramaic language of Jesus is still spoken.

The town has managed to stay out of the Syrian conflict between Sunni Muslim rebels and the regime of dictator Bashar Assad, as have most of Syria’s 2 million Christians.

But worsening violence has forced the community into a corner: Continuous clashes between the rebels and the regime in this isolated town of 2,000 people as well as other Christian towns over the past two weeks have many Christians worried that they will no longer be allowed to stay neutral.

“The Christians now live in a terror,” said Hussam, a Christian from the nearby town of Saidnaya, who asked not to be identified because he feared for the safety of his family if he was to talk openly.

In the latest major attack on a Christian district, rebels fighting alongside members of the jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra stormed a government checkpoint at the entrance to the town Sept. 4. The rebel aim was to seize control of a portion of the Damascus-Homs highway, a main route from the capital of Damascus.

The highway is a key supply line for whoever can hold it.

Fearful that the town would be destroyed, hundreds of Christian men from Saidnaya just outside Damascus and elsewhere joined Assad’s troops to oust the rebels.

Residents told news media outlets that when rebels entered Maaloula they destroyed precious censors, or incense holders, and Bibles from several churches. Some accused rebels of shelling churches and homes in the town. Others dispute those accounts.

Syrian rebel groups say the Syrian military carried out the shelling of the town and is blaming rebels to stir up trouble.

The small homes of Maaloula wind up a rugged mountain, and once on top one can see a green expanse below of fig trees and vineyards. The town is home to mainly Antiochian Orthodox and Melkite Greek Catholics and Muslims.

One of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria is here. Called Mar Sarkis, it is the Arabic name for St. Sergius, a Roman soldier executed for his Christian beliefs.

Christians have lived here for centuries. They have largely supported Assad’s regime but are increasingly pawns in the propaganda war between the rebels and the regime.

The Syrian government has gone to great lengths to present itself as the sole protector of Christians and other religious minorities, saying it is locked in a battle with terrorists and foreign jihadists bent on destroying the country’s secular fabric.

Sama TV, a pro-Assad television station, reported that three Christians were killed by “terrorists” during clashes in Maaloula this month. Its footage—impossible to verify— showed hundreds of angry mourners at a church in Damascus chanting support for Assad.

Christians hold important roles in Syria’s military. And the Assad regime today is heavily dependent on the National Defense Forces—groups of local militias armed by the government—to keep rebels from entering strategic towns and districts around the country.

Towns such as Saidnaya to the north of Damascus and a cluster of towns west of Homs collectively known as the “Wadi,” or valley, have been guarded by armed Christian civilians for months as attacks against the community have increased since the outbreak of the uprising more than two years ago.

But Muslim militias say the idea that the regime is protecting Christians is “foolish,” said Joshua Landis, director of the Center of Middle East Studies at Oklahoma University.

“What’s happening in Maaloula has happened in one town after the next across Syria. Rebels take a town, the regime responds with overwhelming power and force, lobbing shells, very indiscriminately killing people,” Landis said.

Some Syrian Christians say the regime is causing the worst of the attacks to force the Christians to choose sides decisively for the regime. Some even blame the regime for the terrorists being in Syria in the first place.

“I think that the regime is very accomplished in promoting sectarianism,” said Osama Edward, 35, a Syrian Christian who runs the Assyrian Network for Human Rights and is currently based in Stockholm. “The incident at Maaloula proves that beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Landis says the conflict has exacerbated Christian fears they are being driven out of the Middle East. Christians in Cairo and the West Bank, whose faith predates Islam by centuries, have been leaving their ancient enclaves because of threats and attacks.

“It doesn’t take much,” Landis said. “Christians were driven out of Anatolia before the first world war. They’ve been driven out of Iraq. They’ve been driven out of Palestine/Israel. The Copts have been getting the bad end of the stick in Egypt. The Syrian regime has been taken advantage of Christians feeling their days are numbered.”

Christians are still hoping they can avoid taking sides or taking up arms.

“We don’t care who is the ruler of this country,” said Amar Kassar, a Catholic priest from Qatana, a town west of the capital. Kassar was speaking to Sky News.

Kassar was severely injured by a mortar in a Damascus neighborhood last month.

“We are against the formation of an Islamic state. We want a Syrian secular state for all Syrians,” he said.



WSJ: Iran Seeks to Take Advantage of Obama’s Weakness.

Iran‘s ruling clerics are finally interested in negotiating with President Barack Obama over the country’s nuclear program because they think they can exploit the president’s weak position, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial.

“Fresh from their ally Bashar Assad‘s diplomatic victory in Damascus, they now see an opening to liberate themselves from western pressure too,” the Journal said Sunday.

“They’re hoping an eager President Obama will ease sanctions in return for another promise of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] disarmament.”

The Journal cautioned against falling under the spell of new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s moderate tone, noting that Iran “has rolled out other presidents who turned out either to have no power or to be false fronts to beguile the West.”

The editorial also questioned whether Rouhani himself has really changed his own views from the days when he was Tehran’s “nuclear envoy in the mid-2000s when Iran accelerated its nuclear-weapons program.

“It’s doubtful they’ve had a come-to-Allah moment on nukes,” the Journal said of Rouhani and Iran’s supreme religious leaders.

The only “likely reason they’ve finally decided to answer Mr. Obama’s overtures is because they see an America in retreat and eager for a nuclear deal,” the newspaper added.

Obama wants a deal, the Journal continued, if for no other reason simply to prove his past proclamation that the “the tide of war is receding” in the Middle East.

Iran also realizes the American public wants no part of a war and that even some Republican leaders have turned isolationist, the Journal editorial noted.

“Iran’s diplomatic goals are obvious: break its international isolation and lift the sanctions in exchange for a promise not to build a nuclear weapon, even as it retains its ability to build one at a moment’s notice,” the Journal said.

That can’t be allowed to happen, the Journal added.

“If true global security is Mr. Obama’s goal, then at a bare minimum any deal would have to halt Iran’s enrichment of uranium, remove the already enriched uranium from the country, close all nuclear sites and provide for robust monitoring anytime and anywhere,” the editorial continued.

“Anything less would be a mirage . . . A negotiation that dismantles Iran’s nuclear program would be a great step forward, but a deal that promises peace while letting Iran stay poised on the edge of becoming a nuclear power would endanger the world.”

Related Story:

Rove: Obama Shouldn’t Meet With Iranian President at UN

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Dan Weil

Assad Slams Western Powers on UN Draft Resolution.

Image: Assad Slams Western Powers on UN Draft Resolution


BEIJING — Syrian President Bashar Assad denounced the United States, France, and Britain for submitting a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control, saying they were fighting an “imaginary enemy.”Assad, who was interviewed by China’s state television CCTV in Damascus said he was not concerned about the draft resolution and that China and Russia would “ensure any excuse for military action against Syria will not stand.”

“I am not concerned. Since its independence, Syria has been committed to all the treaties it has signed. We will honor everything that we have agreed to do,” an article posted on the CCTV website on Monday quoted Assad as saying, “And more importantly, I want to say, by submitting the draft to the U.N. Security Council, or by urging the U.S. and Russia to agree on a deal, the U.S., France, and Britain are just trying to make themselves winners in a war against a Syria which is their imaginary enemy.”

Russia and the United States brokered the deal to put Assad’s chemical arms stockpiles under international control to avert possible U.S. military strikes that Washington said would punish Assad for a poison gas attack last month.

Washington has blamed Assad’s forces for the attack, which it said killed more than 1,400 people. Assad blamed rebels battling to overthrow him, saying it made no sense for his forces to use chemical weapons when they were gaining the upper hand and while U.N. chemical inspectors were staying in central Damascus.

Under the U.S.-Russian deal, Assad must account for his chemical weapons stockpiles within a week and see them destroyed by the middle of next year.

Envoys from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China — met last Thursday for a third straight day to discuss a draft resolution Western powers hope will make the deal legally binding.

Russia, a key ally of Assad, is unhappy with the draft’s references to possible punitive measures against Syria under Article 7 of the U.N. charter, which talks about U.N. authorization for sanctions and military force.

In the interview, Assad said gunmen could hinder the access of chemical weapons inspectors to sites where the weapons were stored and made.

“We know that these terrorists are obeying the orders of other countries and these countries do drive these terrorists to commit acts that could get the Syrian government blamed for hindering this agreement,” he said.

Asked whether Syria had lots of chemical weapons, Assad said: “Syria has been manufacturing chemical weapons for decades so it’s normal for there to be large quantities in the country.”

“We are a nation at war, we’ve got territories that have been occupied for more than 40 years, but in any case, the Syrian army is trained to fight using conventional weapons,” Assad added.

He said the chemical weapons were stored “under special conditions to prevent any terrorist for other destructive forces from tampering with them, that is, destructive forces that could come from other countries.”

“So there is nothing to worry about. The chemical weapons in Syria are in a safe place that is secure and under the control of the Syrian army,”  Assad said.

Separately, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that China was willing to send experts to help in the Syrian chemical weapons destruction process, and reiterated that a political solution was the only way to solve the crisis in Syria.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Saturday Syria had handed over information about its chemical weapons arsenal, meeting the first deadline of the disarmament operation.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


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