President Donald Trump has ordered the C.I.A. to end its covert arming and training of anti-government rebels in Syria, according to anonymous “officials” cited by the Washington Post. Since 2011, when President Barack Obama declared in 2011 that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad must “step aside“ to make way for a “democratic transition,” weapons supplied by the United States poured into the hands of Syria’s anti-government rebels. One former U.S. official quoted by the New York Times described the flow as a “cataract of weaponry.” The better part of it reached the hands of Sunni jihadist-dominated armed groups that brutally imposed discriminatory sharia law and engaged in religious cleansing wherever they controlled territory. Former Vice President Joe Biden confirmed the myth of an armed “democratic” opposition in Syria when he acknowledged that there is “no moderate middle” for the U.S. to support. When combined with an even more voluminous transfer of arms and funds from Washington’s Sunni Islamist allies, especially Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, the “cataract of weaponry” began to look more like the mighty Niagara.
In the summer of 2011, when President Obama announced his Syrian regime-change policy, roughly 3,000 people had died as a result of the “Arab Spring” uprising, according to the UN. Now, when President Trump finally has terminated the arms shipments, nearly half a million Syrians have died. Another 6.3 million have been internally displaced, while roughly the same number have been driven abroad, with millions still in their own homes reduced to utter destitution. Among the targeted victims are Christians and other religious minorities. While Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed in 2016 that the religious cleansing of Christians, Yezidis and Shiites and others in Iraq and Syria was “genocide,” his declaration was limited only to the atrocities committed by the Islamic State. It did not acknowledge the inconsistency of arming, directly or indirectly, anti-democratic Sunni jihadists as proxies among our U.S.-backed rebel forces in Syria.
In my travels to the region, I have personally witnessed the desecrated churches and monasteries, and have heard the testimony of Christians who have been persecuted by rebel groups other than the Islamic State. I have also encountered moderate, non-Islamist Sunni Muslims who were compelled to flee areas controlled by jihadist militias supported by Washington and its network of allies. But the fallout of this policy has extended far beyond Syria. Just as the arming of the Arab jihadists to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s empowerment Osama bin Laden and jihadist terror networks throughout the world, repetition of this policy in Syria has produced a similarly devastating result. The upsurge of Sunni terrorism in the United States and Europe is directly related to the empowerment of jihadists in Syria over the past six years.
We know from hindsight that arming jihad terrorists as geopolitical proxies has never been in the long-term interest of the United States. I commend President Trump and his team for taking this long overdue action, and look forward to further measures that will dissuade our Islamist allies in the region from continuing their military support for violent jihadist in Syria, Iraq and the rest of the world. By taking this step, President Trump has gone a long way towards fulfilling the goals of CSI’s No Arms for Terrorists Campaign.
John Eibner, Ph.D.
CEO, Christian Solidarity International (CSI-USA)