The Fate of Syria's Christian Minority
Four years ago, Israeli "dove" Avi Primor cooed over the prospects for a comprehensive peace settlement in the Mideast. The "key" to peace, wrote Israel's former ambassador to Germany, lies in Damascus. Amb. Primor wrote that if Israel would only agree to give up the Golan Heights she had captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, Syria might yet come around to accepting the existence of the Jewish state and break its dependence on the mullahs in Iran. Hope soared on the wings of a dove.
Negotiations between Israel and Syria, although conducted through a Turkish intermediary, seemed promising. The incoming Obama administration, buoyed by the president's Nobel Peace Prize, celebrated the new direction in world geopolitics by sending an ambassador to Damascus. No more refusals to talk. Now, we would see action on a peace agenda.
Hollywood doves Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie shared the hopeful mood and flew into Damascus for a visit to refugees from Iraq. They were, of course, roundly criticized for their photo shoot with the dictator's fashionable wife, Asma al-Assad. Still, it's worth noting that Angelina is a U.N. representative for refugees. The couple was at least urging the world not to forget the thousands of Iraqis who had fled that war-torn country to find a precarious haven in Syria.
Tragically, the doves have flown from Damascus. In the last 14 months, as Western journalists celebrated an "Arab Spring" elsewhere, a full-scale revolt against the Assad regime has broken out in Syria. Bashar al-Assad clings to power as his troops engage in "execution-style" killings of scores of women and children in Houla.
The New York Times recently reported on the endangered status of those refugees from Iraq as well as Syria's other minorities. All are threatened with being caught in the middle of a civil war.
But the region's minorities increasingly risk becoming expendable collateral damage in the open-ended civil war in Syria. Many of Syria's ruling Alawites - and their Kurd, Assyrian, Maronite Christian, Greek Catholic and Orthodox fellow minorities, indeed even the prudent Druze - feel caught in a vicious zero-sum game.