Our allies among the Syrian rebels have issued a memorandum to the State Department on strategies for the day after Assad falls. David Ignatius reports in his column today that the Free Syrian Army (SFA) has outlined a “Damascus plan” for “handling the power vacuum in case of a sudden Assad collapse.” This plan is grossly flawed.
Not the least problem, as Ignatius points out, is that the plan relies on the United States — presumably using American troops — to take out not just Assad’s stockpiles of chemical weapons but also the command and control for them. President Obama and his chief congressional supporters have ruled out American boots on the ground in Syria. Right? (See Andrew McCarthy’s important observation regarding this pledge.)
On this issue, General Ziad Fahd, a top rebel commander, told Ignatius in a telephone interview yesterday, “’I don’t anticipate revenge killing,’ adding that his forces would ‘look to the courts’ to prosecute any crimes by the regime.” Protecting the Christians does not seem to figure into the strategic plan at all. Nor was it a concern mentioned by Ignatius, though he takes issue with Fahd’s optimism in minimizing the possibility of revenge killings against the regime.
As I reported on NRO in July, the Christians of Syria have already suffered massive reprisals. Since then, attacks against them have only intensified. For two days this week, the ancient mountainside Christian village of Maaloula, just north of Damascus, has been shelled by rebels from a position of higher ground. Many Syrian Christians have fled to Lebanon, but those who remain report that they fear “ethnic cleansing.”
The American people and their political representatives must raise the issue of reprisals against Christians and other minorities. It is clear that neither our allies on the ground nor Prince Bandar and their other benefactors in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf care.
— Nina Shea is director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians.