By Mark Ellis
He was one of two Americans who investigated Saddam Hussein’s gassing of the Kurds in northern Iraq, and authored the Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988, which passed the U.S. Senate unanimously. Now he’s sounding the alarm about the plight of Christians and other minority groups in Syria.
“I’m against genocide and the plight of the Christians concerns me, but also the plight of the Kurds and Alawites,” says Peter W. Galbraith, former U.S. ambassador to Croatia and the author of two books on Iraq.
The population of Christians, Kurds, Alawites, and Druze make up about 35-40% of the Syrian population. Galbraith has been meeting with representatives of these minority groups over the last year. Without the support of these groups the opposition is unlikely to succeed -- even with increased help from the United States, he maintains.
Galbraith notes a profound unease among Christians and other minorities about their prospects in a post-Assad Syria. “I question a strategy that supplies weapons to the opposition, because the opposition is almost entirely Sunni Arab,” he notes.
While some in the opposition favor democratic principles, a growing number are “extremists whose agenda is to create an Islamic state.”
As the Syrian civil war has unfolded, there have been unsettling changes on the ground. “The uprising did not begin as an Islamic uprising, but the extremists have become prominent in the fight, including foreign fighters,” Galbraith observes.
“This is morphing into a larger fight that goes beyond Syria. Basically, it’s a Sunni-Shiite clash.”