‘Salafists do not divide between Syria and Iraq’
RT:It’s been claimed that attacks on Christians in Syria have a kind of systematic character. What do you think about this? Are they just accidentally caught in the crossfire, or are they being hunted out?
Chris Bambery: What we see here is Salafists’ violence, it’s not only kidnappings, but we are getting news as well that a Syrian journalist who has been killed and possibly beheaded. We are seeing a rising tide of sectarian violence, unfortunately, in Syria and indeed Iraq. I don’t think we can separate these two conflicts and Salafists do not make a separation even in the name of the organization, which unites Syria and Iraq. And of course that’s a very worrying development and indeed increased sectarian tension in Lebanon.
This comes at a time when we are heading toward talks in Geneva, where the Syrian National Council is going to represent the opposition, and is being denounced by these Salafists. The Syrian National Council represents very little and has no control over these people, the Free Syrian Army has little control over these people, and they have their own problems with the Syrian National Council. The Salafists went out of control and we see already the Kurds fighting them to stop sectarian violence in their part of Syria. The FSA [Free Syrian Army] yesterday was making claims it would be forced into conflict with these Salafists if sectarian violence comes. Let’s see, because word is the Salafists are on the cutting edge of much of the opposition because this is also, I guess, the background of where the Assad regime has done rather well in the past six to seven months militarily. I think as the opposition finds itself in a reverse situation, we may well see an escalation of sectarian violence as they do less well on the battlefield.
RT:Let’s focus on the case of these 12 nuns missing. There’ve been international calls to help free them. What progress is there likely to be?
CB: Unfortunately, I don’t think the Salafists pay so much attention to the Pope, the United Nations or any other of these bodies. They pay no attention to the organization that normally heads the Syrian opposition and they have a very determined agenda. And they have been carrying out sectarian attacks not just in Syria but in Iraq and now in Lebanon. And they are not going to stop this. And of course there has been much done by the Saudis and the Qataris who provided them money and the arms.
It’s a rather strange situation. This morning I left Beirut and I was reading in a newspaper that the CIA and Americans are trying to open up discussions with Islamist groups inside Syria. They say: “We won’t talk to Al-Nusra brigade because of the Al-Qaeda link, but we will talk to other Islamists.” And at this very time 12 nuns have been taken hostage. So I really wonder what possible discussions can the Americans be having with these people, because they are not under control of any of the so-called leaders of the Syrian opposition and as I said, I think they are not going to pay any attention to the international appeals to let these poor women go.