When Pope Francis called for a peaceful and prayerful response and a negotiated conclusion for the Syrian savage civil and sectarian religious war, he was speaking with deep concern, wisdom, and spiritual insight. Working for a non-violent solution is the greatest good. It seems his words have been heeded. Prayer works.
A missile strike by the United States and supporting countries against Syria has been averted for now. The threat was to stop more chemical attacks.
Over a 100,000 civilians have been killed in the past two years, mostly by the government forces and now more by the most deadly chemical poison gas attack last 21 August in Damascus, in a rebel held area, as confirmed by the UN chemical weapons investigators. The gas killed over 1,429 women and children (400 of them children) in the worst crime against humanity so far. Whole cities have been destroyed and deserted.
Russia is a long time ally of Syria and continues to supply the Assad regime with weapons and they set up Assad's chemical warfare capabilities many years ago. The stockpiles are in about 42 locations all over the country. The media has shown that some of the precursor chemical ingredients for the deadly nerve poison gas Sarin was also supplied by Western countries including British companies.
The greatest fear by all is that some of the stockpiles could fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda terrorists to be used against their enemies including Israel and Western countries. The threat of imminent missile strikes by the United States and its supporters have now receded. It seems that Pope Francis' call for non violent solutions was heard.
The American Secretary of State John Kerry mentioned in an otherwise belligerent speech a few weeks ago that the chemical weapons of President Assad must be put out of action and beyond use, one way or another.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin seized on that remark as a negotiating approach to head off an attack by the United States and developed it as a solution by putting the Syrian chemical weapons under international control. No easy task. This was welcomed by President Obama while leaving the threat of a US unilateral attack is still on the table. The agreement has been reached but giving until June 2014 for them all to be removed and destroyed is too long a time.
A US preemptive missile strike could cripple Assad's war capabilities and also have far reaching unexpected and unseen consequences and ignite a regional war. It could lead to the fall of the Assad regime, then the Christian communities in Syria would be the target of massacres by the fanatical Islamic jihads or holy war warriors fighting to establish a Islamic state in Syria. They are committing war crimes themselves. The more moderate Muslim opponents of Assad have these radicals to cope with.
The Christians are unfortunately loosely identified as allied with Assad. The Alawites, the Muslin Sect founded in the 8th century to which Assad and his followers belong make up 12% of the Syrian population but have ruled with an iron fist for the past forty years. They face possible massacres too if Assad falls.
Why are the Russians so defensive of Syria and Assad, a war criminal, his regime and his cronies? One could be that corrupt Russian business cronies of Putin have billions of dollars and gold stashed away in secret accounts in Syria as a safe haven like they have in Cyprus. The Russians almost went berserk when the EU central bank demanded a big tax on those billions to pay Cyprus's debts.
Another reason the Russian government opposes any US military action is because it has sold billions of dollars worth of alleged useless aerial defense systems to Assad and other countries. US advanced military technology will quickly overwhelm them showing they are antiquated and ineffective defense systems as was seen in Libya. An alleged massive fraud that will damage the Russian arms industry in the eyes of its many customers worldwide.
The complexity of the competing sectarian fractions in Syria each supported by different outside countries makes the conflict a proxy religious war. In Syria, the population is Shia's 13%, Sunnis 72%, Alawites 12%, Christian and Druze 3%.
The only likely peaceful solution will have to be found by forming temporary self ruling regions with representatives in a coalition government in Damascus. That solution is not very successful in Iraq except for the Kurdish region in north Iraq but it could be better than continuous all-out war. Working for peace, a cease-fire,
Spero columnist Rev. Shay Cullen is a founder of PREDA.org - a nonprofit based in The Philippines that advocates for the welfare of children.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.