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The response of AMRIS to calls for military action against Syria

26 August 2013

In response to an as yet unattributed use of chemical weapons in Syria, the US and its allies are seriously considering military action against including surgical air strikes in Syria.

Australians for Mussalaha (Reconciliation) in Syria (AMRIS), regards these proposals as an extreme escalation of the conflict. 

Military escalation in Syria cannot defuse the crisis, limit the casualties of war or produce peace.  Instead, some believe it can lead to a world war.

Over the past eight years all the leaders of the Coalition of the Willing have conceded that they entered the Iraq war on false information. 

May our leaders consider what is really at stake in escalating the current crisis in Syria and may they protect not just the interests of the 23 million people of Syria, but also the long-term interests of Australia as more and more young Muslims are radicalized by the fatwas of certain extremist clerics in the Middle East and the often distorted information in the mainstream media about the crisis in Syria

May our leaders have the moral strength and clarity to resist an Orwellian chant: we must destroy Syria in order to save it.

May Mr Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, both practicing Christians, pay particular attention to the response of Christian leaders in Syria and Lebanon to the threats of Western powers to carry out military strikes against Syria.

There are powerful voices in the United States who have spoken against war propaganda and military intervention in Syria, while others have adopted a hawkish push for war

Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, now Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief  but who once as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington wielded influence over no fewer than five different US presidents” , is pressuring Western governments to strike Syria.  

Al-Qaeda affiliated groups are fighting the Syrian army, so western governments could soon be offering military support to terrorist groups, some with a history of using chemical weapons in Iraq.

Australia must find its own way.


In concurrence with almost all tribal leaders and religious authorities of every faith in Syria, AMRIS supports reconciliation in Syria.  The long-planned Geneva 2 talks can provide the political solution needed.

Western leaders must not give up on diplomacy for war based on flaky assertions of Islamist militias made less than one week ago.

As Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire suggests, it would be illogical for the Syrian government and army to use chemical weapons, particularly as UN inspectors have just arrived in the country. Moreover, as one AMRIS member has explained, most Syrians have family members in the army and the army represents all faiths in Syria. The army would lose its support base if it attacked its own people with chemical weapons.

The use of chemical weapons by the government would invite the military intervention that sections of the armed opposition have demanded, which suggests it could be a false flag.  Analysis is vital. Time is needed for the investigation. Research for the truth and diplomacy are vital for peace.

Despite their having been some extraordinary claims about the Syrian army using mass rape as a weapon of war, these claims have not led to calls for intervention.  This may be because they can be refuted after serious investigation. What is more, investigating them might bring attention to the situation for women in the rebel held areas in contrast to the rights and opportunities women have in secular Syria.

It is ironic that while Syria is a secular society, the main allies of the US, the UK, and France in the venture to destroy the Syrian government have been Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Saudi Arabia has not only provided financial support and condoned young Saudi suicide bombers going to Syria, but it has also released prisoners on death-row if they agreed to go to Syria to fight the government there.  At the same time, Qatar’s Al-Jazeera has provided war propaganda and broadcast the chilling fatwas of extremist clerics.  Already, tens of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee their homes in Syria and many priests have been killed or kidnapped.  Yet the West is aligned with Saudi Arabia which hosts at least one Syrian extremist cleric and whose mufti has called for the destruction of all churches in the Arabian Peninsula.

In the meantime, while the EU has lifted its arms embargo on militias fighting the Syrian regular army, it hasn’t removed the crippling sanctions which can impoverish the country and impact on the lives of millions.

In Syria, internal opposition groups eschew violence and support the regular army. Like Ang San Suu Kyi, some of the most prominent of these have suffered imprisonment for their dissent. However, a majority of the militarized opposition are radical Islamists, many supportive of the ideology of Al-Qaeda. ASIOS reports suggest there are hundreds of Australian Muslims fighting in Syria and are being radicalized by this conflict. And the existence of a united alternative moderate FSA army is an illusion.

Thousands of non-Syrian jihadists have flooded into Syria with the objective of not merely toppling the Syrian government but replacing the secular state with a caliphate, a radical Islamist society without borders.  Many of these foreign fighters are Takfiri militants, who believe they can kill infidels and heretics with impunity.  Minorities are their first target.  However, ‘moderate’ Sunni Muslims are also targets.  Terror is used as a weapon of this war; the intense fear it creates can lead to the silencing of a population.

Yet, into this quagmire, the US and the UK are considering international military intervention. What is apparently influencing this decision are reports from Médecins Sans Frontières . Because working in rebel held areas in Syria is too dangerous for Westerners, MSF recruits local doctors.  Local doctors who volunteer to work in a rebel controlled hospital treating wounded fighters are presumably sympathetic to the rebel cause, so their reports to MSF must naturally be treated with caution.   (NB: a co-founder of MSF became French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs under President Sarkozy.)

It is estimated that more than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011, and from 30,000 to 40,000 of those killed have been soldiers in the Syrian Army, targeted since almost the very beginning of the crisis.  Research indicates that opposition to the government has been expressed in a violent manner by provocative elements within the protest movement since the start of Syria’s “Arab Spring”.

The international media has presented a highly selective narrative of the crisis in Syria and by pushing a sectarian view of the conflict they are helping release a slow time bomb that can have catastrophic repercussions for decades, not just in Syria. People who murder Christians, Druze or Alawis are welcomed into the rebel forces the West supports.

Unverified reports placing responsibility for atrocities on the government and regular army are highlighted in our media.  While well-verified reports of massacres committed by jihadists have largely been ignored.  This month, the inhabitants of Alawite villages on Lattakia’s outskirts were targeted. One month prior to the massacre, a member of the Syrian National Coalition, a body recognized by the Australian government as the legitimate representative of the Syrian state, called for the killing of Alawi Muslims.  In some of these villages, all of the inhabitants were massacred. Before the chemical weapon attack, the UN inspectors were due to investigate this massacre.

There has been mass murder and ethnic cleansing, beheadings and hangings perpetrated against both Syria’s civilian population and regular soldiers in rebel controlled areas. Syrians of all faiths who have not supported the ideology of the particular armed opposition in their area have been assassinated. This has included university professors and other public servants.

In Duma where the chemical attack reputedly took place, militia have issued fatwas permitting the confiscation of the property of Christian, Alawi Muslim and Druze minorities and others who ‘let down’ the radical Islamists.

AMRIS categorically opposes international military intervention in Syria.  Intervention would favor the ideology and brutal practices of the predominantly Islamist forces fighting the regular army on the ground. A no-fly zone would provide them cover to continue to slaughter and persecute minorities and others who do not adopt their beliefs. The ramifications would be horrific.

International intervention and no fly zones have proven ineffective in the region. In Libya, to save thousands, such policies resulted in the deaths of many more thousands, the destruction of infrastructure, the fragmentation of state, and the placing of the country in the hands of extremist Islamists.

By researching events in Syria, we can own our understanding of the war.  That enables us to take an independent stand for peace and diplomacy and to stop fueling violence and sectarian hatred in Syria.

Australia will take up the presidency of the Security Council next week, which will give our government a chance to take the world away from the path to war.  AMRIS supports the Prime Minister’s decision to act in a “calm and measured” way in the face of calls for the US to lead a military strike at President Bashar al-Assad and his forces.

AMRIS urges the government to support a political solution to the conflict through the Geneva 2 peace conference.

AMRIS urges Australians, including those in the media and in all faith communities, to research Syria.  To imagine that the people in Syria are like us – they want peace in their country – and to respond to that natural wish as best we can.







AMRIS unites people with a range of political views and religious and ethnic backgrounds.

Many of us have family or friends in Syria. Many of us can say from the heart, “I love Syria”. Syria does not exist for one ‘regime’ or one president. It is not an exclusive Syria; it is a very diverse society which has welcomed millions of refugees from different faiths in the past 100 years.

As Australians we have the ‘responsibility to defend Australia should the need arise’.  Assuming Syrian citizens also have the same responsibility to defend their country, who should they fight, the regular Syrian army composed of people from every religious and ethnic background or rebels funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, and dominated by people promoting the ideology of radical Islam? (For the vast majority of Syrian women, this would not be a difficult decision.) Should they fight military forces from the US, the UK and France which enter their country?

Genuine efforts for peace, freedom and political reform rely on an unrelenting search for the truth and the ability to open your heart to the ‘enemy’.  The heroes of the 20th century – Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Ang San Suu Kyi – must be our guide into the 21st century. 

An Australian political hero for many was Prime Minister John Curtin.  During the Second World War, he determined it wasn’t in Australia’s interest to follow Britain blindly. Peace in the 21st century may require similar radical independent action and courage.

We must not lose our moral compass, our intellectual rigor, our imagination, and the courage needed to act for a better world.  Only with those, can we help prevent a war.

It is our choice.