I’m reposting here an article published today by Moon of Alabama, which I think deserves the widest possible readership. The article makes it absolutely clear that ISIS, which is currently attempting to capture the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor from Syrian government control, has the support of the United States military, and that the US lied when it claimed that its air attack upon Syrian army positions in Deir ez-Zor last September, in which over 100 Syrian soldiers were killed, was a mistake.


How The U.S. Enabled ISIS To Take Deir Ezzor

The city of Deir Ezzor (Deir ez-Zur) in east-Syria is on the verge of falling into the hands of the Takfiris of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). More than 100,000 civilian inhabitants of Deir Ezzor and thousands of soldiers defending them are in immediate danger of being murdered by the savage ISIS forces. The current situation is a direct consequence of U.S. military action against the SAA and non-action against ISIS.

Deir Ezzor is besieged by ISIS since September 2015. But the city was well defended by its garrison of Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and all further attacks by ISIS were repelled. Supply to the city was hauled in by air through the Deir Ezzor airport and through air drops by the Syrian and Russian airforces. Relief by ground forces and ground supplies are not possible as Deir Ezzor is more than 100 km away from the nearest SAA positions west of Palmyra and as the desert in between is under the control of ISIS.

Four days ago a new attack by ISIS on Deir Ezzor was launched and has since continued. ISIS reinforcements and resupplies had come over months despite air interdiction from the Russian and Syrian airforces. Yesterday ISIS managed to cut off the airport, where the local SAA command and its main supplies are hosted, from the city proper. It is now attacking in full force from all sides. Bad weather makes air support from the outside sporadic and difficult. Unless some unforeseen happens it is only a question of time until the airport and the city fall to ISIS.

The U.S. has condoned and/or even actively supported the imminent ISIS taking of Deir Ezzor by (at least) three measures:

  • a massive U.S. air attack on SAA forces in September 2016 enabled ISIS to take a controlling position and to cut off SAA resupplies
  • a U.S. attack against a power station in January disabled the last electricity supplies to the city
  • U.S. non-intervention enabled ISIS reinforcements from Mosul and west Iraq to Deir Ezzor in east-Syria

On September 16 2016 an hour long U.S. led air attack on SAA positions on the Tharda hills to the south of the airport killed over 100 SAA soldiers, destroyed a big SAA supply dump and several SAA tanks and artillery pieces. Immediately after the U.S. attack ISIS took the hills and has since held them. The positions allow for fire control over the airport of Deir Ezzor.

The U.S. military claimed that the attack was a mistake but a thorough reading of the investigation report of that “mistake” shows that the U.S. military attack was intentionally targeting the SAA to make a political point against an announced U.S.-Russian cooperation agreement to fight ISIS. (Danish airforce F-16 planes and drones under U.S. command had taken part in the attack. After the report was published, the Danish government pulled all air elements from its participation in the U.S. coalition against ISIS.)

Since the U.S. attack in September no significant air supplies have reached Deir Ezzor. Even helicopter landing at the airport is only possible at night and by taking very high risks. The city inhabitants and their defenders are completely cut off.

Early January U.S. airforce attacks destroyed the electricity plant at the Omar oilfield near Deir Ezzor. The plant was the last one to supply the city of Deir Ezzor. Since then only a few military generators and dwindling fuel supplies are left for medical and communication equipment.

When the Iraqi Army plans for retaking the ISIS held city of Mosul were developed and commenced in October the U.S. insisted on leaving a western corridor open for ISIS forces inclined to flee from Mosul into the direction of Deir Ezzor. Hundreds if not thousands of ISIS fighters used the corridor. The U.S. controlled Kurdish forces in north Iraq let ISIS pass from Iraq to Syria. Fearing (correctly) that an ISIS move out of Mosul towards Deir Ezzor would mean the fall of Deir Ezzor Russia and Iran intervened with the Iraqi government. Despite U.S. wishes the Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi ordered his Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU) to cut off the western exit:

Iran was not the only country pressing for the escape to be closed west of Mosul. Russia, another powerful Assad ally, also wanted to block any possible movement of militants into Syria, said Hashemi. The Russian defence ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.One of Assad’s biggest enemies, France, was also concerned that hundreds of fighters linked to attacks in Paris and Brussels might escape. The French have contributed ground and air support to the Mosul campaign.

Still, the battle plan did not foresee closing the road to the west of Mosul until Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi agreed in late October to despatch the Popular Mobilisation militias.

Despite a fast advance by the PMU from the south against Tal Afar to cut off the escape road many ISIS fighters in west Iraq were able to flee across the border and towards Deir Ezzor with their equipment in tact. They reinforced the ISIS troops now attacking Deir Ezzor. The U.S. has uncontested air superiority over west Iraq and east Syria but did not once intervene against the large scale move.

If ISIS takes Deir Ezzor it will likely kill (as it did on other occasions) all captured SAA troops and anyone it believes to have cooperated with them. The soldiers know this. They will fight down to the last bullet. But without any reinforcements and resupplies their chances are slim.

When the Syrian government besieged al-Qaeda forces in east-Aleppo the “western” media and the various “Syrian opposition” propaganda outlets were running an all out campaign in support of the besieged Takfiris. There is no such campaign in support of the civilians and soldiers in Deir Ezzor. In their few reports about the imminent fall of Deir Ezzor “western” publications even resort to outright lying. Thus claims the Daily Telegraph:

The US-led coalition, as well as the Russians, have been bombing the jihadists in Deir Ezzor for the last 18 months but have been unable to dislodge them.

No significant U.S. air attacks have been flown against ISIS forces around Deir Ezzor at all. All attacks flown by the U.S. in the area have been against Syrian government troops or their supporting infrastructure.

The U.S. official rhetoric about fighting ISIS is not supported by observable facts on the battle field. One can only conclude that the U.S. military does not only condone but supports ISIS in gaining control over Deir Ezzor despite the extreme high risk for anyone left in the city.

This [is] likely to further the larger long term plan of installing a “Salafist principality” in western Iraq and eastern Syria that creates a justification for the U.S. military to stay in the area to “fight ISIS” and which can be activated against the Syrian and Iraqi government whenever convenient. U.S. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have both admitted that they earlier allowed ISIS to grow in Iraq and Syria for exactly such political purposes.

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The following is another extract from a Facebook discussion. I had originally posted an article by Stephen Gowans titled “How an evidence-free CIA finding alleging Russian interference in the US election was turned into an indisputable ‘truth’“; this raised objections from an old friend of mine; then (after much spilling of ink) another friend in New Jersey, who is a teacher, remarked that some of the sources I was citing would be rejected by her in her Freshman writing class as unreliable. This was my response to her.


…,

First, I would point out that, of those sources which you say would not stand the test of credibility in your freshman writing class, one of them (the consortiumnews document) was written by a group of retired intelligence professionals whose credentials include “former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA,” … “former United States Senator,” … “Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA,” and so on; another source is a journal called the Belfast Telegraph, which basically reports the personal testimony of a career UK diplomat, Craig Murray, who says that he met the person who leaked the DNC documents to Wikileaks and that that person is an insider, not a foreigner, an American, not a Russian; if you don’t trust the Belfast Telegraph’s account of this, you can go to Craig Murray’s own webpage, and read what he has to say about it: https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/…/cias-absence-conviction/ If what you tell your Freshman writing students is that statements made by former senators, ambassadors, and members of the intelligence community are not to be trusted when those statements conflict with declarations made by the CIA and the consensus opinion presented by the New York Times and NPR, then I would submit that you are teaching your Freshman students to be dutiful parrots of an officially sanctioned narrative and not critical thinkers.

I appreciate your attempt to understand where I am coming from here, and I do not generally unfriend people unless they have a habit of being egregiously unfriendly. I think that, if you look through my Facebook page over a number of years, you will find that, from the beginning of the Syrian war, I was skeptical of the official American position, namely, that Assad is a tyrant and that the people trying to depose him are democracy-loving freedom fighters. One reason why I was skeptical of this is that, having worked in Albania and having known people who visited Syria in the past, I know that that country was, at least until this war began, the religiously most tolerant country in the Arab world. Very early in that war, two Orthodox bishops were abducted; they haven’t been heard from since, and have presumably been killed. This abduction was done by the people my government has been supporting and touting as freedom-fighters — people who also happen to be supported and funded by Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive, religiously intolerant countries in the world and a major US ally. It is one incident, but, for me, it had a certain decisive effect; it helped bring home to me the extent to which the American humanitarian rationale to this war is a lie. Virtually everything I have learned about the war since then has confirmed for me the utter falsity of the narrative about this war which most people accept as fact: that we are virtuous humanitarians, that the Russians, coming to the aid of the Syrian government, are bloodthirsty murderers, that we are genuinely committed to destroying ISIS, etc., etc. It’s all lies and propaganda, and most people, yourself included, seem quite oblivious of the extent to which so-called reputable media outlets like the New York Times and NPR feed their readers a steady diet of propaganda on issues like this.

That is perhaps why I am inclined to be skeptical towards the pronouncement by Mr. Obama and the CIA and the FBI that Mr. Trump’s presidential victory was due to the work of “Russian hackers.” I have learned, by long experience, that most of what comes out of the mouths of people like John Kirby, Samantha Powers, John Kerry and the like is (if you’ll pardon the expression) bullshit, and that Mr. Obama, who has hired these career liars to spread this manure far and wide, is himself a consummate liar and generally not to be trusted when he pontificates on American virtue and Russian perfidy.

Of course, you don’t have to believe me, and probably won’t. But the claim that people who do report on these things, who present other points of view differing from the approved narrative of the mainstream are, by definition, mere peddlers of “fake news,” or that, because a number of sources report a narrative that differs radically from the approved one, they “harbor biases” (perhaps they are biased towards the truth) is simply insulting to one’s intelligence. It supposes that educated people cannot make their own decisions, on the basis of reason and experience, about what sources of information they should trust; they need to have someone else make these decisions for them. If that is the attitude you are teaching your students, you are doing them a disservice.

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Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, prioress of the Monastery of St. James the Mangled in Qâra, Syria, gave a talk yesterday evening at St. George’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cleveland, titled What is Really Happening in Syria Today? I made a point of attending, having first heard about Mother Agnes-Mariam and her work a couple of months ago. In September, in the aftermath of the chemical weapons attack on East Ghouta, an eastern suburb of Damascus, she presented a report to the United Nations in Geneva, pointing out that some of the children who were shown as victims in the amateur videos that began circulating on the internet on the morning of the attack had been kidnapped by rebels two weeks earlier after a massacre by rebel forces in the town of Latakia; also, in different videos, purportedly filmed at different locations, the same dead children reappear. In brief, the children were cynically used as props. (A brief summary of the report, written by Mother Agnes-Mariam herself, along with a link to the PDF of the full report, will be found here.)

Most of Mother Agnes-Mariam’s talk yesterday centered upon the work of the organization she heads, Mussalaha (“Reconciliation”), described as “a popular movement in Syria that mediates disputes and organizes ceasefires between opposing forces.” It became clear to me, in hearing her speak, that her peace activism in Syria long preceded the incident in August that nearly brought about US airstrikes; in her talk, she described some of the more memorable incidents in which she and her organization had made a difference. She seems to have a rare ability to maintain communications with all the different sides in this war, not excluding the Al Nusra Front. (I should qualify that: she explicitly stated that the aim of her organization is to promote reconciliation among the various Syrian parties in this war; she does not negotiate with the foreign jihadists who have flocked to the country.) One of her most moving stories concerned a local meeting in (I think) Aleppo between opposing political forces; the meeting was full of mutual recriminations, and nothing was getting done. Then a man, attending the meeting, related the story of the kidnapping of his only son, named Fayyad, 20-years-old. He and his wife tried for months to secure his release. One day, he received a phone call; the voice asked, “would you like to see your son?” The father replied, “Of course, we are ready to do whatever you ask.” The voice replied that, okay, they would bring him. The father and mother were overjoyed, and anticipated meeting their son. Two days later a car drove by their house, very fast; when the parents opened the door, they found a bag containing the remains of their son Fayyad, who had been hacked into pieces. But the point of the story, as Mother Agnes-Mariam told it, was not the heinous crime as such. The man who told the story said to the warring factions that, although the death of his son was a crime without justification, a loss that had taken away his reason for living, and that, if there was anyone there who had good reason for wanting to seek revenge, it was him, he was, nevertheless, there and then, forgiving his enemies, and beseeching them all, for the good of Syria, to forgive each other. This man, as Mother Agnes-Mariam pointed out, was a Sunni Muslim. She said this, pointing out that this kind of reconciliation is open to all, and is the only way forward if Syria is to have a future.

Like a lot of people, I have been much preoccupied over the past year by what is going on in Syria; in general, I see my own government’s policies there as shameful, duplicitous, and motivated more by calculations of geopolitics than by any genuine concern for the people in that country who are suffering and dying. It is easy to become cynical about what is going on, both in Washington and in Syria itself. It is easy to despair, or to be critical. Mother Agnes-Mariam is one courageous woman who, instead of despairing about the situation, is there on the ground actively doing something about it. She is certainly critical about lies that are told to perpetuate the war; yet the focus of her effort is not there, but on the process of reconciliation which is necessary if all the various parties are to live in peace. She is going to be in the United States for the next month, raising support for her ministry; if she plans to speak in your town, I would urge you to go and hear what she has to say.

The following article appeared today on the website Zenit.org.

Toronto, October 31, 2013 (Zenit.org)

Here is a statement from the North American Orthodox Catholic Theological Consultation on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. The statement was issued Saturday at the group’s meeting in Mississauga, Ontario. The group meets every five years in Canada.

In 2011 we, the members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation[1] deplored the devastating losses in the Christian communities of the Middle East in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring.” Today the situation of many of the Christian communities in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine has become catastrophic.

Together with the 2013 Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, we repudiate all violence and demand action by responsible authorities to end the kidnapping, torture, and killing of Christians and all civilians. We also appeal for the release of Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim, both of Aleppo, Syria.

With regard to Syria in particular, together with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, we join Pope Francis in exhorting the international community “to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation… May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries.”

As the Canadian Council of Churches has stated, “We are concerned for the safety and security of all the people in the region, but in particular, the weak, vulnerable and powerless. The spread of sectarian violence puts all generations throughout the region at risk and is a menace to the hopes and dreams of the younger generations.”

With the Clergy-Laity Conference of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, we “deplore the wanton destruction of Christian Churches, monasteries, convents, orphanages and hospitals throughout the Middle East….We call upon the leaders of our nation to protest these unspeakable acts of terror and to work unceasingly to bring to an end the heinous genocide of our brethren.”

When one part of the body suffers, all suffer (cf. 1 Cor. 12:26). As Orthodox and Catholic Christians, we therefore have the responsibility to respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters. We call upon our communities to continue to pray for the Churches and for peace in this part of the world. We urge the leadership of our churches to continue to intervene vigorously in behalf of the Christians of the Middle East, who live in fear for their lives, their communities, and the very future of Christianity in the region.

Mississauga, Ontario
October 26, 2013

[1] The Orthodox members of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation are appointed by the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America and, on the Catholic side, by both the Canadian and United States Conferences of Catholic Bishops.

(October 31, 2013) © Innovative Media Inc.

A very important article, which I thought worth sharing. Source: mintpressnews.

Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack

Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaida linked rebel group.

By |August 29, 2013
This article is a collaboration between Dale Gavlak reporting for Mint Press News (also of the Associated Press) and Yahya Ababneh. 

Mideast-Syria_Muha1-e1377263904358
This image provided by by Shaam News Network on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, purports to show several bodies being buried in a suburb of Damascus, Syria during a funeral on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, following allegations of a chemical weapons attack that reportedly killed 355 people. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network)

Ghouta, Syria — As the machinery for a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria gathers pace following last week’s chemical weapons attack, the U.S. and its allies may be targeting the wrong culprit.

Interviews with people in Damascus and Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital, where the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders said at least 355 people had died last week from what it believed to be a neurotoxic agent, appear to indicate as much.

The U.S., Britain, and France as well as the Arab League have accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the chemical weapons attack, which mainly targeted civilians. U.S. warships are stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to launch military strikes against Syria in punishment for carrying out a massive chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and others are not interested in examining any contrary evidence, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that Assad’s guilt was “a judgment … already clear to the world.”

However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.

“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.

Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”

Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.

Abdel-Moneim said his son and the others died during the chemical weapons attack. That same day, the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaida, announced that it would similarly attack civilians in the Assad regime’s heartland of Latakia on Syria’s western coast, in purported retaliation.

“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”

“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.

A well-known rebel leader in Ghouta named ‘J’ agreed. “Jabhat al-Nusra militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material,” he said.

“We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” ‘J’ said.

Doctors who treated the chemical weapons attack victims cautioned interviewers to be careful about asking questions regarding who, exactly, was responsible for the deadly assault.

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders added that health workers aiding 3,600 patients also reported experiencing similar symptoms, including frothing at the mouth, respiratory distress, convulsions and blurry vision. The group has not been able to independently verify the information.

More than a dozen rebels interviewed reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government.

Saudi involvement

In a recent article for Business Insider, reporter Geoffrey Ingersoll highlighted Saudi Prince Bandar’s role in the two-and-a-half year Syrian civil war. Many observers believe Bandar, with his close ties to Washington, has been at the very heart of the push for war by the U.S. against Assad.

Ingersoll referred to an article in the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph about secret Russian-Saudi talks alleging that Bandar offered Russian President Vladimir Putin cheap oil in exchange for dumping Assad.

“Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord,” Ingersoll wrote.

“I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” Bandar allegedly told the Russians.

“Along with Saudi officials, the U.S. allegedly gave the Saudi intelligence chief the thumbs up to conduct these talks with Russia, which comes as no surprise,” Ingersoll wrote.

“Bandar is American-educated, both military and collegiate, served as a highly influential Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., and the CIA totally loves this guy” he added.

According to U.K.’s Independent newspaper, it was Prince Bandar’s intelligence agency that first brought allegations of the use of sarin gas by the regime to the attention of Western allies in February.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the CIA realized Saudi Arabia was “serious” about toppling Assad when the Saudi king named Prince Bandar to lead the effort.

“They believed that Prince Bandar, a veteran of the diplomatic intrigues of Washington and the Arab world, could deliver what the CIA couldn’t: planeloads of money and arms, and, as one U.S. diplomat put it, wasta, Arabic for under-the-table clout,” it said.

Bandar has been advancing Saudi Arabia’s top foreign policy goal, WSJ reported, of defeating Assad and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies.

To that aim, Bandar worked Washington to back a program to arm and train rebels out of a planned military base in Jordan.

The newspaper reports that he met with the “uneasy Jordanians about such a base”:

His meetings in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah sometimes ran to eight hours in a single sitting. “The king would joke: ‘Oh, Bandar’s coming again? Let’s clear two days for the meeting,'” said a person familiar with the meetings.

Jordan’s financial dependence on Saudi Arabia may have given the Saudis strong leverage. An operations center in Jordan started going online in the summer of 2012, including an airstrip and warehouses for arms. Saudi-procured AK-47s and ammunition arrived, WSJ reported, citing Arab officials.

Although Saudi Arabia has officially maintained that it supported more moderate rebels, the newspaper reported that “funds and arms were being funneled to radicals on the side, simply to counter the influence of rival Islamists backed by Qatar.”

But rebels interviewed said Prince Bandar is referred to as “al-Habib” or “the lover” by al-Qaida militants fighting in Syria.

Peter Oborne, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, has issued a word of caution about Washington’s rush to punish the Assad regime with so-called ‘limited’ strikes not meant to overthrow the Syrian leader but diminish his capacity to use chemical weapons:

Consider this: the only beneficiaries from the atrocity were the rebels, previously losing the war, who now have Britain and America ready to intervene on their side. While there seems to be little doubt that chemical weapons were used, there is doubt about who deployed them.

It is important to remember that Assad has been accused of using poison gas against civilians before. But on that occasion, Carla del Ponte, a U.N. commissioner on Syria, concluded that the rebels, not Assad, were probably responsible.

Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates.

Dale Gavlak is a Middle East correspondent for Mint Press News and the Associated Press. Gavlak has been stationed in Amman, Jordan for the Associated Press for over two decades. An expert in Middle Eastern Affairs, Gavlak currently covers the Levant region of the Middle East for AP, National Public Radio and Mint Press News, writing on topics including politics, social issues and economic trends. Dale holds a M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago. Contact Dale at dgavlak@mintpressnews.com

Yahya Ababneh is a Jordanian freelance journalist and is currently working on a master’s degree in journalism. He has covered events in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Libya. His stories have appeared on Amman Net, Saraya News, Gerasa News and elsewhere.

A petition is being presented to President Obama that he do what he can to obtain the release of the two Syrian archbishops who were abducted last week, and to see to a peaceful, negotiated solution to the Syrian conflict. I signed the appeal today; I urge readers of my blog to do likewise. The petition can be signed at the following link: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/appeal-president-obama-and-his-government-release-two-abducted-orthodox-christian-archbishops-syria/xNskxL1q

The text of the petition reads as follows:

An appeal to President Obama and his government for the release of two abducted Orthodox Christian Archbishops in Syria.

An appeal to President Obama and his government for the release of two Orthodox Christian Archbishops, namely Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim, who were abducted by armed rebels on April 23, 2013 in the suburbs of Aleppo, Syria. The driver of the Archbishops was murdered and the Archbishops were forced by the rebels to go to an unknown location either in Syria or in Turkey.

We appeal to you beloved in Christ and peace loving people to sign this petition urgently asking the American administration to use all its influence for the release of these two Archbishops and to bring a peaceful settlement to this bloodletting Syrian conflict through a negotiated settlement.

On Monday this past week there were reports from Syria that two bishops from Aleppo, one Greek Orthodox (Paul Yazigi) and another Syrian Orthodox (Yohanna Ibrahim), had been kidnapped near the border between Syria and Turkey, and that the driver of their car had been killed. Anonymous Greek Orthodox sources indicated that the kidnappers were “Chechen jihadists.” On Tuesday, the BBC and other news sources reported that the bishops had been released. That news seems to have been premature; more recent reports (e.g., the BBC, Agence France Presse) indicate that the bishops are still being held somewhere; today the Organization of Islamic Cooperation demanded their “unconditional release.” Prayers are urged on the bishops’ behalf.