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ICC Note: Senior Syrian clerics visited Ireland last week to discuss the dire situation faced by Christians in Syria. The conflict is not so much of good guys vs. bad guys but rather picking the less of two evils in hope for a secure future. For Christians, picking rebel groups is a gamble as many of them are less democracy oriented and resemble more of an Al-Qaeda group in their politics and actions during the war. Christians are in a particularly difficult position because no front really advocates for their freedoms, much less cares for their survival in the nation.

12/09/2016 Syria (Irish Catholic): For the vast majority of Irish people following the siege of Aleppo in the media, it a clear-cut case of the ‘good guys’ vs the ‘bad guys’. The good guys are the rebels. In our imagination, they are freedom-fighters who will turn Syria into a liberal, Western-style democracy if they win.

The bad guys are Assad and his Russian ally, Vladimir Putin.

In fact, it would be better to regard this conflict as ‘bad guys’ vs ‘bad guys’. It is a bit like Hitler vs Stalin, or Iraq vs Iran when those two countries were engaged in a long war back in the days of Saddam Hussein. It is a case of choosing the lesser of several evils and it can be hard to know who is the least of these evils.

Last week, a delegation of very senior Syrian clerics visited Ireland. The main item on their agenda was an appearance before a sometimes hostile Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee.

It also became apparent that the clerics, without actually saying so, are terrified of what a rebel victory would mean for their communities, especially the Christian communities because in Syria it is not only ISIS that savagely persecutes Christians and other religious minorities. Other rebel groups do the same.

In Aleppo, for example, one of the main rebel groups is Fateh al-Sham, formerly called Al-Nursa which is closely linked to Al-Qaeda. It has turned its guns on numerous Western-backed rebels groups during the conflict.

The Western-backed groups, like the Free Syrian Army are not powerful enough to win the civil war. That has been one of the problems. No group has been strong enough to win the conflict quickly. But no sane person would want Al-Nusra or ISIS to win, least of all Syria’s Christians.

So, this is the situation faced by Christians and others in Syria; they are having to choose the lesser evil all the time because there is no ‘good guy’ capable of winning the war. The absolute best we can hope for is a compromise settlement following peace talks. This might lead to Assad stepping down from power in favour of a compromise government. But even if this is agreed, the Jihadist groups must still be defeated because they will never agree to peace.

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