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Rudy Takala's Columns

Francois Murad: Murders Of Christians in Syria Prove Shipping Arms There is a Bad Idea

Authored for  PolicyMic.

In the midst of Syrian turmoil, it was reported over the weekend that Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra murdered another Christian in the country. Catholic priest Francois Murad was  killed  as he was attempting to set up a monastery in Gassanieh in northern Syria.

His murder is the latest in the  "shadow war"  against Christians by the Syrian rebels to whom President Obama committed small arms and ammunition last month. Catholic Father Michael Kayal was abducted in February while riding a bus; Syrian Orthodox Father Fadi Haddad was kidnapped in December and subsequently murdered; "Yohannes" was shot on a bus when a cross was found around his neck; stories of others abound. Yet President Obama seems determined to provide arms and support to the rebel movement in Syria. As these murders and other atrocities unfolding in Syria demonstrate, this move is both foolhardy and ill-advised.

Jabhat al-Nusra is part of the insurgency fighting to topple the government run by Bashar al-Assad. In April, it was  announced  by Al-Qaeda's Iraqi leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that Jahbat al-Nusra was an extension of their own group, saying it was "time to declare in front of the people of the Levant and [the] world that the al-Nusra Front is but an extension of the Islamic State in Iraq and part of it." The group has henceforth been known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, and according to al-Baghdadi, will only ally with groups "on the condition that the country and its citizens be governed according to the rules dictated by Allah."

Though rebel fighting had been ostensibly spearheaded by the Free Syrian Army, Jahbat Al-Nusra has increasingly emerged as a figurehead in the movement. It's been  reported  by Syria Online that Jordanians, Saudis, and Chechens have all been found among Jabhat al-Nusra's fighters, suggesting that Islamists from across the region have joined the movement.

Few congressional members have called for intervention in the region beyond Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.). Casey has gone so far as to  recommend  airstrikes to protect the rebels (and terrorists) in northern Syria from al-Assad's forces, while McCain was  inadvertently  photographed with terrorists when he visited the country in May.

Yet McCain didn't budge from his position that the rebels would be preferable over Bashar al-Assad, whose regime had a  tradition  of tolerating Christians in the country. "The senator believes his visit to Syria was critical to supporting the many brave Syrians who are fighting for their lives and the freedom of their country," his spokesman said.

Particularly in light of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's ouster Wednesday by that country's military, it seems bizarre that President Obama and his allies are so eager to make the same mistakes in Syria. The military there is promising to install a more diverse government than would have been allowed under the constitution governing the nation under Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which had  stated  "Islam is the religion of the state" and prohibited a non-Muslim president.

It seems like President Obama and his allies are willing to fight – and even assist in the murder of innocent people – to create "change" for the sake of change. Given that the negative consequences of action in Syria look likely to overshadow even the chaos in Egypt, the president should think twice before providing any more aid to bullies or terrorists in the region.

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