By UNBOUND, primarily general editor Christian Iosso


With a second round of Israeli bombing allegedly targeting missiles bound from a Damascus site to Hezbollah on May 4, the Assad regime may be weakened in its civil war, but the dangers of a larger war have intensified. The Syrian government may receive additional support by Hezbollah, which had already made public its increasing involvement in fighting Sunni Jihadi rebels in Syria near the Lebanon border. Israel’s action, probably known by the US, may have been prompted by fears of chemical weapons getting into Hezbollah hands, although the targets were conventional missiles that Syria has itself used in the civil war.


Small scale use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government has been alleged and is under investigation, but has not risen to “red line” status for the United States. Certainly killings continue on an increasingly sectarian basis that make prospects of reconciliation or even continued unity of the state ever more difficult to envision; nor do atrocities on both sides absolve either the dictatorship or particular rebel groups of responsibility for human rights violations.
An alternative reading of events has been proposed by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to General Colin Powell, who suggests that the chemical weapons story may have been planted by the Israeli government to prompt or justify military action against Syria. An article quoting Wilkinson was run by The Jerusalem Post, a conservative newspaper. Wilkinson also suggests that Israel is taking significant risks in provoking Damascus or its allies to react. See below.


In agreement with the guidance of partner churches in Syria and elsewhere in the region, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has affirmed the restraint shown so far by the Obama Administration, also recognizing that the Syria battle has already been a proxy for a fight with Iran that Israel, in particular, has been long urging. Iran, Hezbollah, and Shiite population in Iraq all support the Assad government while the Gulf states (including Saudi Arabia) have been funding the Syrian military opposition. According to last Sunday’s New York Times (May 28), the US has shown restraint partly because there are no significant secular opposition forces fighting in Syria, and some rebels are aligned with Al Qaida.
At this time, it seems opportunistic for any neighboring power or the United States to contribute to an already intensely tragic and even toxic situation. Last year’s General Assembly spoke clearly on the Syrian situation in words that still seem wise, despite the blockage of UN action so far:

(We) urge the U.S. government

•       to support a mediated process of cessation of violence by all perpetrators, including the Assad regime and armed opposition groups;

•       to call for all outside parties to cease all forms of intervention in Syria;

•       to support a strong and necessary role for the United Nations, possibly including observers and peacekeeping forces; and

•       to refrain from military intervention in Syria.”

(We) support full, public congressional debate of any potential U.S. military intervention, including cyber war, weapons supply, training (as is already reported), and drone warfare, to examine carefully the possible humanitarian benefits, costs, and outcomes of such intervention, including its impacts on the Syrian people, and to support review of the impacts of sanctions and other pressure on both Syrian society and the regime.”

The Washington Post on the bombing.

Steven Zunes recently wrote noting the lack of good reason for US to go into Syria (beyond its indirect help to the Gulf States and CIA training of some rebels).

Given the possibility that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons and that it may be used as an excuse for foreign military intervention, Zunes (a US Christian Professor of Middle East Studies) has provided a little history about the United States and chemical weapons, particularly in relation to the Middle East.

“We don’t know what the chain of custody is. This could’ve been an Israeli false flag operation, it could’ve been an opposition in Syria… or it could’ve been an actual use by Bashar Assad. But we certainly don’t know with the evidence we’ve been given. And what I’m hearing from the intelligence community is that that evidence is really flakey,” retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, told Cenk Uygur in an interview with Current TV.

The 2012 General Assembly also addressed this kind of eventuality, given the regular misuse of ‘intelligence’ in the run-up to military action:

Grieving the last decade of war and distraction from economic and ecological realities, the General Assembly affirms the need for extensive public debate and greater transparency on decisions to use military force. The assembly affirms the national and international legal processes of the War Powers Act and the United Nations Security Council to ensure that military intervention of any kind is undertaken as a “last resort” and reflects a high consensus among democratic nations that it may serve a “just peace.” The practices of undeclared war, including cyber attack, targeted killing by drone aircraft and other means, covert infiltration and “false flag” operations (that set up others for blame), expand government power, and threaten civil liberties as well as the national sovereignty of other nations. This recognizes that General Assemblies have supported humanitarian military intervention to prevent genocide (as in 1998), while favoring non-military intervention insofar as possible.

In addition to a public letter calling for efforts towards a cease-fire sent by Presbyterian Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons to John Kerry, the international group Religions for Peace has worked with some Syrian religious groups to promote an Inter-religious Council that would, among other tasks, seek nonviolence, healing, and dialogue (  The challenges before religious leaders may be seen in the assassination of regime-friendly Muslim leaders and the abduction two weeks ago of two senior Christian bishops (for which the Presbyterian Church also joined in appeal).

In a decidedly unfunny collage of video clips of US political figures urging US war with Syria, Jon Stewart illustrates the lack of clear US strategy, beyond concern for a heart-breaking situation.The lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the danger of war with Iran, seem ignored by those favoring more US or Israeli involvement. Larry Derfner, an Israeli observer, warns that Israel is seeking to maintain its military ability to hit other nations with impunity in a way that may have its own blowback:

Thus it remains Unbound’s position that the US should not intervene unless it can contribute to a reduction rather than an escalation of hostilities, and should discourage allies from engaging in proxy wars that contribute to long term sectarian hatred. It would seem preferable to back truce initiatives by Egypt and Turkey, that consult with Russia and China, rather than further bombing by Israel, which has long occupied Syria’s Golan province and has previously bombed Syrian weapons targets. The complications of power-balancing in relation to Syria are real, but the root idea that the insecurity of others makes one more secure is always an illusion.

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