A Syriac Christian militia in Syria that is fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda and also opposes the Assad regime is asking President Trump for direct military assistance and to be treated as equals with the U.S.-backed Arab forces preparing to take Raqqa, the “capitol” of ISIS.
The Syriac Military Council (MFS) is a Christian component of the 50,000-strong Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurds, Sunni Arabs, Turkmen and Christians backed by the United States and formed in October 2015. The U.S. military describes the alliance as its “best partnered forces” in Syria. The special operators helping the forces to fight ISIS say they have “absolute confidence” in them as the forces, including 1,000 women, prepare to attack Raqqa.
The MFS’ request for President Trump’s help reads in part:
“There is no single reason to exclude us from the same support in equipment as is given to the Arabs. The fact that we suffered under genocides emphasizes the need for delivery of military equipment. If we are weak, we are a target of the extremist forces that the SDF is fighting against.
“We will be part of any operation against Raqqa, regardless our current level of military equipment. We cannot imagine that the U.S. would deliberately want us to be poorer equipped than our Arab partners when we go into that big battle.
“We thank the U.S. for the air support given in crucial battles and the support to the SDF. We also hope that this is an opportunity to work together for the long-term security and freedom of our people and all the peoples of the region.”
The MFS statement says that the U.S. military assistance favors the Turkmen and Arab components of the SDF over the Christians and Kurds. It also disputed Turkey’s claim that the Kurdish component is part of the PKK terrorist group.
The MFS has a presence in the Christian areas of northeastern Hasakah Province, a multiethnic province with Kurds and Arabs. The province has great potential for U.S. strategy, as it has been suggested as a candidate for a “safe zone” for refugees, most prominently by Dr. Ben Carson when he was running for the GOP presidential nomination. About half of Syria’s oil production is based in Hasakah Province.
The Syriac Military Council (MFS) launched by the Syriac Union Party in January 2013 and is estimated to be about 2,000-strong and includes a Christian female unit named the Beth Nahrin Women Protection Forces. The organization includes Christians identifying as Assyrians, Syriacs and Chaldeans.
Watch a video of the Christian females’ training camp in the Kurdish area of northern Syria.
The MFS initially tried to ally with various Syrian rebel groups, such as those backed by Turkey who are fighting under the Free Syria Army banner, but their Islamist orientation prevented it from going anywhere. A MFS commander said, “Most have a mentality that they can’t accept diversity within Syria.”
In early 2014, MFS allied with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers to be a branch of the PKK Kurdish terrorist group. The U.S. position is that they are operationally separate, which MFS agrees with, even if they are ideologically unified. The YPG is the Kurdish component of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
The MFS is on the side of the secular-democratic Syrian opposition, even if it doesn’t directly engage Assad’s forces. It “started out as a staunchly anti-government militia, and its leaders insist that its views have not changed,” reports Middle East Eye.
The Syriac Military Council (MFS) and its Beth Nahrin Women Protection Forces (HSNB) condemn the Assad regime as a “murder machine.” When they launched, they declared support for “the Syrian people’s revolution in its desire to bring down the Ba’ath regime.”
The MFS commander in Hasakah says the Assad regime and ISIS should be viewed as part of the same enemy, accusing the ruling dictatorship of exploiting ISIS to stay in power.
“They [the Assad regime] are the ones that bring ISIS in…We want to launch attacks on ISIS, but the army of the regime does not allow us to. They have contracted different outside militias, some of which are sympathetic to ISIS, and allowed them to enter and loot homes,” he said.
With President Trump’s reversal on the Assad regime, U.S. policy is now aligned with the Syrian Christian forces that belong to the Syriac Military Council and oppose Assad, ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Islamist rebels.
As the MFS Christians prepare for the bloody battle in Raqqa, they are hoping that President Trump hears their voice. Let’s hope that their statement reaches him.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. To invite Ryan to speak please contact us.