The Orthodox Christian Church, which is reclaiming its traditional role in post-Soviet Russia, has just described its government’s fight against the Islamic State and other jihadi groups in Syria as a “holy war.”
According to Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Church’s Public Affairs Department,
The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it. The Russian Federation has made a responsible decision on the use of armed forces to defend the People of Syria from the sorrows caused by the arbitrariness of terrorists. Christians are suffering in the region with the kidnapping of clerics and the destruction of churches. Muslims are suffering no less.
This is not a pretext to justify intervention in Syria. For years, Russia’s Orthodox leaders have been voicing their concern for persecuted Christians. Back in February 2012, the Russian church described to Vladimir Putin the horrific treatment Christians are experiencing around the world, especially under Islam:
The head of External Church Relations, Metropolitan Illarion, said that every five minutes one Christian was dying for his or her faith in some part of the world, specifying that he was talking about such countries as Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and India. The cleric asked Putin to make the protection of Christians one of the foreign policy directions in future.
Compare and contrast Putin’s terse response with U.S. President Obama, who denies the connection between Islamic teachings and violence; whose policies habitually empower Christian-persecuting Islamists; who prevents Christian representatives from testifying against their tormentors; and who even throws escaped Christian refugees back to the lions, while accepting tens of thousands of Muslim migrants.
Russian Patriarch Kirill once even wrote an impassioned letter to Obama, imploring him to stop empowering the murderers of Christians. That the patriarch said “I am deeply convinced that the countries which belong to the Christian civilization bear a special responsibility for the fate of Christians in the Middle East” must have only ensured that the letter ended up in the Oval Office’s trash can. After all, didn’t Obama make clear that America is “no longer a Christian nation“?
Of course, Russian concerns for Christian minorities will be cynically dismissed by the usual brood of talking heads on both sides. While such dismissals once resonated with Americans, they are becoming less persuasive to those paying attention, as explained in “Putin’s Crusade—Is Russia the Last Defender of the Christian Faith?”
For those of us who grew up in America being told that the godless communist atheists in Russia were our enemies, the idea that America might give up on God and Christianity while Russia embraces religion might once have been difficult to accept. But by 2015, the everyday signs in America show a growing contempt for Christianity, under the first president whose very claims of being a Christian are questionable. The exact opposite trend is happening for Russia and its leaders—a return to Christian roots.
How can they not? After one of his speeches praising the West’s Christian heritage—a thing few American politicians dare do—Putin concluded with something that must surely resonate with millions of traditional Americans: “We must protect Russia from that which has destroyed American society”—a reference to the anti-Christian liberalism and licentiousness that has run amok in the West.
Incidentally, it’s an established fact that the “good rebels”—or “moderates”—are persecuting Christians no less than the Islamic State.
There are no “moderate rebels,” only committed jihadis eager to install Islamic law, which is the antithesis of everything the West once held precious. If the “evil dictator” Assad kills people in the context of war, the “rebels” torture, maim, enslave, rape, behead, and crucify people solely because they are Christian.
Moreover, based on established precedent—look to Iraq and Libya, the other countries U.S. leadership helped “liberate”—the outcome of ousting the secular strongman of Syria will be more atrocities, more Christian persecution, more rapes and enslavement, and more bombed churches and destroyed antiquities, despite John Kerry’s absurd assurances of a “pluralistic” Syria once Assad is gone. It will also mean more terrorism for the West.
At day’s end and all Realpolitik aside, there is no denying reality: what the United States and its Western allies have wrought in the Middle East—culminating with the rise of a bloodthirsty caliphate and the worst atrocities of the 21st century—is as unholy as Russia’s resolve to fight it is holy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to intervene in the ongoing civil war in Syria has been accompanied by a major public relations push in the Russian media. From weather reports assessing the conditions for bombing in Syria to social media posts from the military highlighting the Russian military’s attacks on the enemies of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the multiple state-run media outlets that dominate the Russian news media have been feeding the country a steady diet of stories about Russian military might.
On Wednesday, the Russian people got a look at what is believed to be the first use of Russia’s new Kalibr-NK cruise missile, and Putin used the occasion to tweak the U.S. and its allies, which have been bombing targets in Syria for months, offering to destroy ISIS facilities for them. The implication, plainly, is that other forces in the region might not have the same capabilities as his.
“If they say they are abreast of the situation better than we are, because they have operated in Syria for over six months (illegally, by the way, as I have told them recently), let them provide us with targets they have found, and we will destroy them,” Putin offered.
More than two dozen of the Russian missiles were fired into Syria from ships 900-plus miles away in the Caspian Sea, and were apparently part of the support for a large ground offensive being launched by the Syrian Army against rebel groups fighting the Assad regime.
The use of the cruise missiles puzzled some experts, such as HIS Janes analyst Jeremy Binnie, who told The Washington Post that the Russian military has other assets in the region that could have managed to take out the targets struck on Wednesday. Cruise missiles, fast and hard to detect on radar, are typically used at the outset of a campaign to disable enemy positions with little or no warning.
The reports all noted the range of the missiles, which are a new addition to the Russian arsenal, and their technical sophistication. They all also pointed out that all 26 of the missiles struck within three meters of their intended targets, and claimed that no civilian buildings were damaged.
In televised remarks Putin said, “The fact that we have launched precision-guided weapons from the Caspian at a range of around 1,500 km and hit all the targets indicates the good status of defense industry and the good skills of the personnel.”
The fact that the strikes were launched from the Caspian Sea is also significant, because it required the missile to travel over parts of both Iran and Iraq before entering Syrian airspace. This tacitly highlighted the recently announced partnership between the Kremlin, Iran, Iraq, and Syria to fight the extremist group ISIS.
As the United States and its allies continue to accuse Russia of targeting militants not affiliated with the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group, Moscow has pointed out the hypocritical nature of Washington’s claims, while continuing to devastate insurgent targets.
Despite the fact that Russia’s Air Force has destroyed dozens of IS installations in Syria, Western military officials – and Western media – continue to claim that the Kremlin is primarily targeting the Syrian opposition.
"I’m also concerned that Russia is not targeting ISIL, but instead attacking the Syrian opposition and civilians," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a news conference on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry responded to these criticisms, pointing out that the US-led coalition is the one which has had difficulties with accuracy.
"The American and other air forces have been carrying out strikes for a year already," Major-General Igor Konashenkov said, according to RIA Novosti.
"But we have grounds to believe that they have not always…been striking terrorist targets."
The Russian campaign, however, has proven remarkably effective. According to Riad Haddad, Syria’s Ambassador to Russia, roughly 40% of the Islamic State’s infrastructure has been destroyed in only a week of bombing.
The Russian Defense Ministry also reported on Wednesday that an airstrike near Aleppo on Sunday wiped out nearly all of the terrorist group’s anti-aircraft vehicles.
Russian warships also successfully launched 26 cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea on Wednesday, taking out IS targets.
In light of Washington’s targeting concerns, Moscow has offered to share intel. That proposal has so far gone unanswered.
A big oil deposit has been found in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, with enough reserves to last Israel for decades, according to the country's media.
The Israeli presence in the Golan Heights is in dispute. The region is internationally recognized Syrian territory that has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and several Arab states. UN Resolution 242 (1967) demands the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the territories occupied in the conflict. Israel disagrees with the wording of the resolution, saying the territories are disputable.
Reportedly, the potential production may reach billions of barrels, while Israel consumes 270,000 barrels per day. Israel currently imports up to three quarters of its oil from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, the Financial Times reported in August.
Wow again! It just keeps getting more interesting....oil in the Golan Heights....which used to belong to Syria... Now Russia's knew buddy. You can't make this stuff up! Hook meet Russia's jaw!
Scott, thanks so much for the Russia Christian info. I know many people who went there as missionaries after the iron curtain fell. And man oh man people got saved like crazy!!!!!! It's a huge Christian nation now compared to us
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