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War Drums Syria and Iraq: When the Ethnic Cleansing & Religious Persecution Begins

3 June 2013 2 Comments

Appearing in CFP.

Urgent. Danger ahead. This is what happens before ethnic cleansing and religious persecution begins. The “threat letters” appear.

It happened in Iraq and it can be expected to happen in Syria. Especially as the Obama /Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham/Saudi/NATO operation of arming the Syrian rebels linked to al Qaeda to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, ramps up. They say it is necessary for humanitarian purposes,

Do you think that U.S. troops and assets will not be involved?

Do not be deceived by President Barack Obama’s “weakness” in public image regarding arming the Syrian rebels. The battle in Syria has been fueled by the Obama administration’s gunrunning and arms smuggling to Syrian rebels from Libya through Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Hence the attack in Benghazi.

Are you awake yet or did you think it was a strange coincidence that had nothing to do with anything that Iranian soldiers and Hezbollah are fighting for Assad in Syria? This is a battle for their survival as well.

Despite leaders like President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying, ad nauseam, for two years that Syrian President Assad’s days are numbered, they are not numbered.

Syria will not be like regime-change was in Egypt, or Libya, rather it will be like Iraq on steroids.

Iran, will not sit idly by and be next on the U.S./Saudi list for regime change. Like the risk to the Iranian regime was primed in Iraq—which is why Iran fueled the sectarian violence in Iraq for years, Iran will fight the U.S. again in Syria.

As Patrick Cockburn in the London Review of Books confirmed, “‘If the enemy attacks us,’ Hossein Taeb, a high-ranking intelligence officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, recently said, ‘and seeks to take over Syria or Khuzestan’ – an Iranian province – ‘the priority is to maintain Syria, because if we maintain Syria we can take back Khuzestan. But if we lose Syria we won’t be able to hold Tehran.’”

If past is prologue, when the sectarian slaughter inevitably explodes in Syria, is when what are called the “threat letters” begin to arrive on people’s doorsteps. It already happened in Iraq. Shiite militias’ letters to Sunnis. Sunni militias’ letters to Shiites.

An excerpt from one of the “threat letters” from a Shiite militia to the Sunnis in Iraq stated, “Don’t you know that killing for us is a habit?”

When the religious persecution and ethnic cleansing starts in Syria, no one, I repeat, no one is safe or immune. Just like Iraq when the sectarian slaughter broke out, Christians, Jews, people of all faiths and non-believers were persecuted or slaughtered with the Sunnis and Shiites. Remember Syria is the backdoor to Iran. Iran also borders Iraq.

Freedom of the Press? Ethnic Cleansing has begun …

For those who thought the freedom of the press has only been endangered since President Barack Obama took office, think again. As reported in The Whistleblower, it happened under the Clinton administration, and if you will now remember, it also happened under the Bush administration.

Following is the short version of a long story that did not see the day of light during the Iraq war that I am reporting now as a warning of what will happen in Syria if the Obama/Saudi/NATO Middle East project is not stopped.

The time was April 2006. At that time reporting any troubles in Iraq was taboo. Aside from the rare exception, journalists found themselves engaged in an exercise in futility. The U.S. was in pro-Iraq war mode seeped in patriotism. But behind the scenes, for months, if not years, before it made news, the Bush administration was trying to conceal the reality of the sectarian bloodshed, the ethnic cleansing and religious persecution that American and NATO forces were caught in the middle of. This was after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was deposed after the U.S. lead invasion into Iraq in 2003.

Recall it wasn’t until November 2006 when NBC was the first media outlet who used the words “civil war” to describe what was happening in Iraq against the wishes of the Bush administration.

The truth is the sectarian slaughter began much, much earlier. It was in April 2006 when I first learned about the threat letters which were being found in Iraq—the precursor to ethnic/religious cleansing, followed by mass migration of refugees where people literally flee for their lives.

What are the threat letters?

In this instance, in Basra, Iraq, threat letters were dropped on the doorsteps of Sunni houses from Shiites militias warning them to leave immediately or face certain death. These threat letters weren’t exclusive to the Sunnis.

As an official with the International Organization for Migration, IOM-Iraq, confirmed with me at the time, “Yes, ‘Threat Letters’ have been confirmed to exist for a while now. The [United Nations] local staff, for example, were issued with such letters and instructed even to stop collaborating with any U.S. affiliated ventures or programs. These staff stopped working now till the situation is fully assessed. I also understand that the Basra Palace is being shelled almost daily now. Beyond this, it is confirmed that some families wake up in the morning and find threat letters by their door steps and they comply by selling off their property and leaving their places instantly.” If those who received the threat letters didn’t leave, bloodshed in that location commenced shortly thereafter.

This chilling information was first brought to my attention by a U.S. source, who was posted in Basra at the time. Basra is the second largest city in Iraq which borders Iran.

“It is a bad scene out here. Ethnic cleaning has begun … for once, the U.N. gets it,” my source, who was willing to be quoted as a “Western diplomat” to keep his name secret for security reasons told me. The U.S. compound in Basra was also under attack. The U.S. and U.N. personnel were overwhelmed by the number of Sunnis seeking help who were being driven from their homes through intimidation and “organized threats.” This was not only a Sunni issue. In other parts of Iraq, the opposite was happening; Sunni militia groups driving Shiites from their homes.

Next my source sent me copies of the threat letters.

Immediately I had the threat letters translated. Then submitted media queries to all the countries involved in Basra for a response—with the letters and translations.

At that time Basra was a United Kingdom security-region with added support provided by the U.S., Denmark, and UNAMI—the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq.

The Danes refused to comment and with a thump referred me to their website which was in Danish.

The U.S. thanked me for this info, assured me they would look into it.

The Brits had a hard time providing any real answers and gave me the impression that they hoped I’d go away. After all the oil-rich Basra that bordered Iran was their region to secure and they were losing it. It was bad, the bloodshed escalated, and Iran’s Shiite militias continued to gain a stronghold in Basra.

A year later, America had to finally admit the truth: British forces were useless in Basra. This was not the fault of the brave military who served, but as history records, the fault lies with the U.K.’s leadership who never provided their troops with the tools or sound policy to win. Sound familiar? It should.

As U.S. Marine Colonel Gary Anderson said at the time when the Brits pulled out defeated, “The primary issue in Basra will be a struggle between various Shia [also called Shiite] factions for control of the region, and frankly the regular government in Baghdad as well. It will be between pro-Iranian factions and those that are more nationalistic. It’s going to be nasty (bold mine).”

Indeed it was. Iraq remains nasty today. Following are some of the headlines from Iraq from last week. Iraq: Wave of Violence Continues. Iraq: Bombing Kills Members of Wedding Party. At Least 53 Are Killed in Bombings in Baghdad, Death Toll Rises as Bloodshed Spreads in Iraq. Iraq: Seven Soldiers Die in Two Attacks.

It will be even nastier in Syria, than Iraq, if the U.S. continues to intervene. But this time it will be much worse. Russia is backing Iran and Syria.

The Threat Letters

While the Bush administration put a happy-face on Iraq before being forced to deal with the deadly reality, following is an excerpt from the article I had written on the “threat letters” in Iraq months before the public was told the truth about Iraq’s civil/sectarian war that I’m publishing now as a warning of what will happen in Syria. Do not be deceived by another administration’s happy-talk. The freedom of the press has been subverted before.

“The acceleration of sectarian violence after the Feb. 22 [2006]attack on one of the Shiites holiest sites, Samarra’s Al-Askari shrine, has moved the bloody clashes between Sunnis and the Shiites into a new and dangerous phase that possibly jeopardizes the future of a united, peaceful Iraq.

In Basra, according to a Western diplomat, “religious persecution,” and “ethnic cleansing” has “begun,” provoked, in part, by the distribution of threat letters, also known as death letters, given to Basra civilians. These letters are being used as intimidation tools and contain dire warnings urging residents to leave the area immediately, adding fuel to growing concerns that a mass exodus in Basra is imminent.

In an exclusive, [X media outlet] obtained 5 threat letters, typed in Arabic, directed at the “sons of the Sunnis,” signed by a group called the “Red Death Brigade” from a U.S. government source in Basra: “Pity upon you from the anger of the Shiites on Earth and anger of the Almighty in the hereafter, “reads one of the translations.

It is believed that the threat letters are coming from religious fighters of the powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr’s Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution but outside foreign forces and insurgents, namely from Iran, who have a close proximity to Basra, cannot be ruled out.

Denounced throughout the five threat letters are overlapping targets: “The Zarqawi followers are the dogs of Iraq,” reads one, referring to Iraq’s al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his supporters. Others are directed at, “the blasphemous,” “The Baathist and Saddamists,” “Silly doubled-faced organizations” and to “You children of the whores and the illegitimate.”

One letter openly names Iraqi politicians and local leaders. Another seeks revenge for “what you have committed against us in the past and the present,” referring to the former Sunni-Baathist rule, under deposed dictator, Saddam Hussein.

In these threat letters Basra residents have been cryptically warned to, “Leave the Shiites and their ways and if you don’t you will see what your eyes have not seen. And you hear from us what you have never heard before,” says one. “Fight only those who harm you first,” directed one letter, “Because God does not love those who harm others first.”

One letter appears to read as a call for arms, “Where can the wanted go? Pity. Pity. Revenge. Revenge. We have raised the banner. No Baathists after today. Beware the anger of the wise. Beware of the Shiites.”

Another letter reads as a final warning: “We are innocent from any military action that may follow which could harm the innocent. And he who warns shall be absolved.”

Ethnic cleansing and religious persecution is not solely affecting Sunnis but also the Shiites. Elsewhere, according to the Christian Science Monitor, Shiites have received similar threatening death letters from Sunni insurgent Groups, called, the “Islamic Army of Iraq and Ansar Al-Sunni,” warning them to leave “before passing God’s judgments.” Shiites around Baghdad, “Sunni-dominated areas in central Iraq” and mixed areas are “predominantly” heading south, to “cities such as Basra, Najaf and Karbala.”

According to UNAMI, in addition to the Sunni’s and Shiites, they have received increased reports that Christians in Iraq “have also been targeted and live in fear.”

Now you know what happens after the threat letters arrive.

As Patrick Cockburn in the London Review of Books explains:

“It’s hard to imagine a real agreement being reached [regarding Syria] when there are so many players with conflicting interests. Five distinct conflicts have become tangled together in Syria: a popular uprising against a dictatorship which is also a sectarian battle between Sunnis and the Alawite sect; a regional struggle between Shia and Sunni which is also a decades-old conflict between an Iranian-led grouping and Iran’s traditional enemies, notably the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Finally, at another level, there is a reborn Cold War confrontation: Russia and China v. the West. The conflict is full of unexpected and absurd contradictions, such as a purportedly democratic and secular Syrian opposition being funded by the absolute monarchies of the Gulf who are also fundamentalist Sunnis.”

There will come a day when people will ask, why did the Obama administration squander the opportunity to help the Iranian people in 2009 when they rose up against the brutal theocratic Iranian regime? The Green revolution was the true freedom revolution. Why did the Obama administration not “meddle” in Iran then “meddle” in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and now Syria by empowering the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda linked rebels?

Update: U.S. Relies Heavily on Saudi Money to Support Syrian Rebels New York Times, January 2016.

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Update: CSI, Christian Solidarity International contacted me. They have issued a GENOCIDE ALERT: Defend Middle East Christians & Other Religious Minorities. Be sure to check out the map to see the ongoing widespread religious persecution in the Middle East.

Following is some of the information CSI has uncovered in Syria.

Abductions by rebel groups, gangs or common criminals, are a ubiquitous phenomenon in Syria and disproportionately affect religious minorities. In January 2013, some 50 people were abducted from Hasake province in northeast Syria, half of them Christians.13 A CSI source in Aleppo reports that abductions occur almost daily, “mainly of Christians, as they are thought to be the group that can pay the most for ransom.”

A Druze leader reported in March 2013, “Our people get stopped at checkpoints and are asked which sect they belong to. Once the militias hear that they are from Swaida [a province where 90% of the population is Druze], our men disappear.” A Sunni anti-regime activist explained the targeting of Swaida’s Druze, despite their considerable support for Sunnis under government assault in neighboring Daraa province, this way: “Jubhat al-Nusra sees the Druze as infidels, therefore they see attacking and kidnapping them as justified.”14

Religious minorities in Syria have also been victimized by regime violence. Many Syrian Christian refugees in Lebanon were forced to flee by the regime’s indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas.15 Regime forces murdered Basel Shahade, a young Christian political activist, in Homs in May 2012.16 Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church was kidnapped in April 2013 after criticizing the regime in public; the regime and the opposition traded blame for the abduction of the bishop, who remains in captivity.17 The Syrian opposition has also blamed the car bomb massacres in the Christian-Druze Damascus suburb of Jaramana on regime intelligence services.18 The regime has contributed significantly to the sectarian nature of the conflict by aggressively recruiting Christians, Alawites and Shiites into pro-government militias.

The Assad regime has historically tried to suppress non-Arab Christian identities, such as that of the Assyrian Christian population.

Between 200,000 and 300,000 Christians have fled Syria since the beginning of the war,19 accounting for nearly one-fifth of the total Syrian refugee population, though Christians constituted only one-tenth of Syria’s prewar population. Christian refugees in Turkey report that they are unable to stay in refugee camps set up by the Turkish government, as Jubhat al-Nusra and other rebel groups often impress young men from the camps into fighting against the regime.20

There is precedent for elimination of minority religious groups in Syria’s modern history: following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Syria’s small Jewish population was subjected to repeated pogroms and systematic persecution by the state, leading to the slow exodus of nearly the entire community from the country.21

Calls for genocide against religious minorities from rebel leaders in Syria are numerous and frequent. The chant “Alawites to the grave, Christians to Beirut!” has been reported at anti-government demonstrations since the earliest days of the revolution. In early 2013, a YouTube video surfaced of a young Sunni Syrian boy singing to a cheering crowd, “We will slaughter the Shiites in the towns of Kfariya and Fua”22 (two isolated Shia towns in Idlib province, which would later become the site of a mass abduction of Shia civilians23). In July 2012, a Sunni rebel commander posted a video on YouTube threatening to kill any Sunni who traded with Shia Muslims, “even if it is a single grain of wheat.”24 Many Free Syrian Army battalions have named themselves after Ibn Taymiyya, a 14th century Sunni Muslim scholar who called for the extermination of Alawites.25 Following the religious cleansing of Alawites from the village of Jamaliyya in December 2012, a Jubhat al-Nusra fighter said, “We are defending our religion. This is what our revolution is about.”26 In July 2012, a Sunni rebel fighter declared, “All Alawites must be slaughtered.”27

Christian Solidarity International calls on the international community to:
– Issue a Genocide Alert for Syria’s endangered religious minorities.
– Impose and fully enforce an immediate arms embargo on the Syrian Arab Republic, applied equally to the Syrian regime and all anti-regime groups.

To find out more, go to their website.