President Trump’s recent announcement that his administration will create safe zones in Syria has been endorsed by the Lebanese-born president of In Defense of Christians, who claims that the initiative is necessary to bring about the end of the Syrian civil war.
As a Lebanese American with more than 30 years of business experience in finance and development, Toufic Baaklini offered a unique perspective on the issue of safe zones in Syria in a Tuesday Op-ed published by The Hill.
Baaklini asserts that Trump’s announcement “should be welcome by all who seek to protect civilians and take steps to end that terrible conflict, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions.”
According to Baaklini, safe zones in Syria would protect vulnerable populations — particularly Sunni Muslims — allowing them to stay in their country, and preventing them from having to live elsewhere as refugees.
The nearly 2 million Christians in Lebanon could benefit greatly from Trump’s decision, reports Baaklini. The country has borne the largest burden of the refugee crisis created by the Syrian civil war, struggling to host more refugees than any country in the world. Lebanon’s resources are being strained by the more than 1,500,000 refugees it is hosting, a number equal to nearly half of its native population.
The Lebanese army has been fighting ISIS and other terrorist groups since the beginning of the civil war in Syria. Lebanese and Lebanese-American Christians have grave concerns over the protection of Christianity in the region, as many Christians have faced genocide by ISIS, Baaklini explained.
Baaklini is working to raise awareness of the crisis. “Last year, our organization, In Defense of Christians, working in conjunction with Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, the Knights of Columbus and others, urged recognition of genocide by ISIS against Yazidis, Christians, and others. We continue to urge the U.S. government and governments worldwide to work for the preservation of Christian communities, particularly those who have suffered genocide.”
Protracted conflict in Syria has had devastating effects on multiple fronts. The fighting has permitted the terrorist organization Hezbollah to strengthen militarily, creating a threat to the Lebanese, as well as to the U.S. and its allies.
Additionally, it has fostered the indoctrination and recruitment of refugees by other terrorist organizations, such as ISIS and Al Nusra, bringing danger to refugee camps, threatening the stability and security of host countries, and making it more challenging for refugees to emigrate to the West.
Baaklini hopes the Trump administration will work to identify and prosecute those funding the radicalization and recruitment of refugees by violent extremists.
The brutality of jihadi terrorism and the Baathist regime occupation endangered Baaklini’s life as a young man in Lebanon, teaching him what it was like to face threats from both sides.
“Even as Lebanon welcomes Armenian, Assyrian, and other Christians as well as Sunni Muslims from the Middle East to Lebanon,” Baaklini said, “it must look to the U.S. as its partner in combating terrorism.”
“American leadership is vital to stability in the Middle East. President Trump’s plans for safe zones in Syria shows that he is willing to move decisively to end the conflict.”
H/T: The Hill
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