The Lessons of Late Ottoman Genocides for Contemporary Iraq and Syria

This article will appear in the Armenian Weekly’s upcoming magazine on Ottoman genocides, co-edited by Khatchig Mouradian (coordinator, Armenian Genocide Program, CGHR, Rutgers University) and Sabri Atman (director, Seyfo Center–the Assyrian Genocide Research Center).

Scholars of genocide studies have begun to explore the constitutional and political causes of genocide. After many years in which theories of evil intention prevailed, structuralist and functionalist theories have gained ground. For example, Rene Lemarchand’s studies in the comparative dynamics of genocide suggest that the colonial and precolonial context of an entire region may make genocide attractive at either the national or the local level.[1] He argues that “social structure” may lead to genocide where groups are “ranked” in terms of access to social goods such as wealth or education, enjoyment of human rights, or power.[2] Adam Jones looks to Cambodia as a “subaltern genocide” in which rebels who fought the UN-recognized government for some time took over and began mass executions of those seen as “traitorous” to the new Khmer Rouge system, and starved many others by misrule.[3] Jones observes that the Khmer Rouge served a functional role in the world system, serving as “protégés” to the United States and China in their efforts to limit Vietnam’s growing power.[4]

Civil strife and refugee flight operate as accelerators to genocidal events. German and Hutu elites sought to preempt what they saw as “annihilation.” Tutsi forces in Burundi and eastern Congo perpetrated mass violence against Hutus for similar reasons.[5] In several cases of genocide, refugee flows have been used as a weapon, as with the case of the German “refugees” from the “free city” of Danzig in 1939, the internally-displaced Hutus of northern Rwanda targeted by Tutsi rebels in 1993-94, the Hutu refugees in eastern Congo in 1994-2014, and the remnant of the Khmer Rouge who acted as cross-border terrorists after 1979.[6] The Arab League states used Palestinians as a “refugee weapon” against Israel, and Ronald Reagan used Cambodian refugees as a weapon against Vietnam.

This essay attempts to draw on some of these insights. The aim is apply the lessons of late Ottoman genocides against Christians to the present-day humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria. Both crises present some similarities with the geopolitical context of the late Ottoman Empire: a strategy of limiting Russian influence in the eastern Mediterranean, destabilizing refugee flows in the region in the years leading up to the crisis, a transition from an oppressive dictator/monarch to a coalition promising a more liberal and democratic era, the formation of death squads and their support networks on all sides, and rising religious and racial extremism setting the stage for ending the era of pluralism and creating total chaos. A new Khmer Rouge is rising in Iraq and Syria, extremist rebels who may destroy pluralism.

Late Ottoman Genocides: False Hopes and Plans for Vengeance

False promises of a more pluralistic era go back centuries in the Middle East. Crowds in London in the era of the Crimean War held up posters showing the Ottoman Sultan, Napoleon Bonaparte III, and Queen Victoria as the “three saviours of civilization.”[7] Viscount Palmerston maintained that the “integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire are necessary to the maintenance of the tranquility, the liberty, and the balance of power” of the world.[8] The newspapers said that Britain was fighting against Russia as “the personification of Despotism,” and that “God wills the liberty and happiness of mankind,” so Britain was “doing God’s work in fighting for liberty….”[9] Freedom for all was at hand.

Historians of the late Ottoman Empire describe a dynamic of catastrophe, in which attempts to limit Ottoman conquests resulted in massacres of local civilians, countermassacres of Ottoman settlers and occupation forces, threatened humanitarian interventions, paper promises of equality among Ottoman subjects in the future, and renewed conflict years later.[10] The Russians did not believe in the Ottoman pledge to protect the rights of Orthodox Christians, which had been trampled consistently. In the Crimean War, the British and Austro-Hungarians supported the Ottomans against the Russians, with the result that “Russia was compelled to demolish her fortresses on the Black Sea” and to keep her warships out of the seas adjoining the western Ottoman coasts, while “Turkey made promises (on paper) that Christians should be admitted to equal rights with Mussulmans in her European dominions.”[11] Britain insisted on the “independence and territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire,” eventually signing a pact to defend it against Russian attempts to liberate the Ottoman Christians.[12] The British heavily financed the late Ottoman military machine.[13]

In the twentieth century, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) collaborated with the Committee of Union and Progress or “Young Turks” on plans for a more democratic era in Ottoman history, one in which Armenians and Turks could be treated as equals.[14] According to historian Gerard Libaridian of the University of Michigan, the ARF looked to the Balkan revolutionaries and Russian socialists as models.[15] He implies that its cooperation with the Young Turks only helped reinforce the new regime’s authority, with disastrous consequences. The Balkan wars and the manipulation of the Armenian issue confirmed the worst instincts of some members of the Young Turks. The resulting Young Turk regime reinforced the Ottoman state with Turkism, one-party rule, and a modernizing national socialism.[16]

Revenge on Native Christians for British and Slavic Victories

The Young Turks and the Constitution of 1908 pledged a new era of democratic pluralism.[17] Secretly, the Young Turks planned to avenge the human-rights violations against Turks in the Balkans, the Russian Empire, and other places. The plan was to deport Christians from their homes and use brigands or irregulars (çetes) or Kurds to perpetretrate massacres.[18] The German consul in Erzurum reported that the “non-Muslim and non-Turkish inhabitants” of the Ottoman Empire would be “attacked and exterminated by Kurdish and Turkish brigands.”[19] The extermination operations were often perpetrated by the “brigand cadres” of convicts released from prison to serve in the Ottoman Special Organization, joined by Kurdish tribes, Turkish gendarmes or police, and Muslim refugees from the Balkans or the Russian Empire.[20] The refugees sought revenge on the Orthodox Christians and Slavs for their suffering in the Balkan Wars and the expansion of Russia’s empire.[21] One of the leaders of the Young Turks, Enver Pasha, remarked that after the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, “our anger is strengthening: revenge, revenge, revenge; there is no other word.”[22] In 1914, the Ottoman Chamber of Deputies prophesied a “day of revenge” against the “Muscovites” and their “allies” for all the “martyrs they have trampled underfoot.”[23] With the start of World War I, the German ambassador predicted that if British forces landed on the Turkish coast, all bets would be off when it came to the massacre of the Armenians.[24] In July 1915, a German diplomat described how the Muslim refugees brought “tales of suffering” to Turkey, which led to “exceptional measures against the Armenians.”[25] Historian Taner Akçam observes that “[a] nation that feels itself on the verge of destruction will not hesistate to destroy another group it holds responsible for its situation.”[26]

With respect to this plan, some of their German allies encouraged the Young Turks. The German-Turkish League, with the German Foreign Office standing behind it, developed a geopolitics of pitting Germans and Turks against Russians and Armenians. Advocates of this type of geopolitics proposed removing the Armenians from the Ottoman-Russian border area so as to change the racial balance of forces, and to preempt further Russian victories. Arab populations would be deported to the Ottoman north, to be replaced by Armenians who could work the German railway in Mesopotamia, a project that promised agricultural and oil wealth.[27]

After reviewing the German diplomatic cables published by Johannes Lepsius in 1918, German scholar Gabriele Yonan has argued that the Kaiser, the German Intelligence Service for the Orient, and the German Embassy in Constantinople had helped bring about an Armenian and Assyrian “Holocaust,” by aiding and abetting plans of the Ottoman Sultan-Caliph for a “holy war” against the Christian allies of Britain and Russia.[28] According to the German diplomatic traffic, the Ottoman Minister of Interior, Talât Pasha, told a German embassy official in mid-1915 that the Turkish government “is intent on taking advantage of the World War in order to [make a] clean sweep of internal enemies—the indigenous Christians—without being hindered in doing so by diplomatic intervention from other countries.”[29] The diplomatic archives indicated that German officials believed that the Ottoman government “resolved . . . to eliminate the indigenous Christians.”[30] This was consistent with reports that the Young Turks decided in 1910-1911 that the “‘nations that remain from the old times in our [Ottoman] empire are akin to foreign and harmful weeds that must be uprooted.’”[31]

The native Christians, for their part, sought to escape annihilation by flight, appeals for justice, and spotty resistance. In July 1915, the German ambassador to Turkey wrote that under the guise of “relocations,” the Ottomans carried out the “goal of annihilating the Armenian race in Turkey.”[32] The Armenian patriarchate claimed that 200 churches and about as many other places of worship or religious education were stolen or destroyed.[33] In early 1916, the Assyrian patriarch warned the Russians that Turkish and Kurdish forces “had determined to kill all of us [Assyrians],” so that he led his people to flee their homeland.[34] The German imperial chancellor was told that the Assyrians of eastern Turkey had been “exterminated.”[35] Paul Shimmon, on behalf of the Assyrian patriarch, complained that 70 Assyrian towns and villages had been looted and ruined by Ottoman troops and Kurdish militias.[36] The Greek Foreign Minister spoke of the deaths of more than 300,000 Anatolian Greeks along the Black Sea coast.[37] The U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire condemned the murder of two million Christians in Turkey by 1918, including Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks.[38] Genocide scholar R.J. Rummel, surveying a variety of sources, has identified two periods of killing, involving 300,000 to 1.4 million Armenians in 1914-1918, nearly 200,000 Assyrian and Greek Christians in 1914-1918, nearly 50,000 Assyrians in Persia in 1914-1918, and 800,000 Armenians and Greeks in 1919-1925.[39]

Facing military defeat, the Ottoman Sultan signed a forward-looking treaty with the Western powers. The treaty adopted many of the tools later utilized by the United Nations to reduce the incidence of mass atrocities: ethnic autonomy, human rights for religious minorities, and nonaggression pacts.[40] In response, Mustafa Kemal and Rauf Orbay waged a national “holy war” (cihad-ı milliye) against the remaining Armenians and Greeks.[41] Raphael Lemkin’s notes for a study of Greek-Turkish relations after 1918 stated that after massacres of Turks by Armenians or Greeks, “wave[s] of genocide” reached the Armenians of Cilicia and Yerevan, while at Smyrna some Greek massacres of Turks were followed by attacks by the çetes on Greek villages, designed to “end in the elimination of the rival nationality from that particular area.”[42] The Kemalist irregulars (chéttes or bashibozuks in Lemkin’s sources) murdered villagers, raped women, “cut down” children, and burned the villages.[43] In June 1921, the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs described the killing of 60,000 Christians in Soviet Armenia and the environs.[44] Later in 1921, Stanley Hopkins of the aid organization Near East Relief confirmed that the “Greeks of Anatolia are suffering the same or worse fate than did the Armenians in the massacres of the Great War.”[45] He described the Kemalists’ intention as “to destroy all Greeks….”[46] A quarter of a million Armenians and Greeks persished in the Kemalists’ reoccupation of Smyrna, mostly of gg, burning, and hunger.[47] By late 1922, the British Prime Minister Lloyd George condemned how the Kemalists had “slaughtered in cold blood … five hundred thousand Greeks….”[48] In December 1922, the British foreign minister concluded that “a million Greeks have been killed, deported or have died.”[49] A million or more Ottoman Christians may have been slain after 1918, based on census records and the reports of various diplomats and scholars.

The subsequent Treaty of Lausanne promised to achieve what even the Ottoman Empire could not, that is, to seal “the extinction of Christianity” in Turkey. The Europeans and Russians offered moral and material support to Kemal and Orbay, while they rarely helped the Christians north of the Iraqi border.[50] The Assyrians asked to receive the benefits of treatment as an “independent nation,” failing which they feared “their future existence as a nation [was] doomed,” but the British Empire refused.[51] The Ottomans had issued an order to exterminate the Assyrian and Armenian Christians of Mosul during the war, which the German consul Walter Holstein resisted, prevailing due to an “immense strength of will.”[52]

The Turkish state created in Ankara claims to be the “legitimate successor of the Ottoman State.”[53] The pillars of modern Turkey are threefold: nationalistic intolerance (Turkification), religious intolerance (Sunnification), and political intolerance (the strangulation of dissent). The Turkish criminal code enforces each of these three pillars of modern Turkish society, with Article 301 codifying the immunity of the Turkish race and its history from criticism, Article 125(b) the immunity of the dominant religion from criticism, and Article 125(a) the immunity of specific Turkish officials from criticism.

The War in Iraq: Imitating the Turkish Model

In 1990, neoconservatives such as Bernard Lewis and the Brookings Institution’s experts suggested that an “international order” of peace and security would follow a war on the side of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait against Iraq.[54] Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Martin Indyk of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Richard Perle of the American Enterprise Institute became boosters for Saudi Arabia’s role in promoting a peaceful Middle East in the 1990s.[55] On the other hand, Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, in his first Senate speech, accurately predicted that the 1990-1991 war would inflict “tremendous destructive power” and “unleash forces of fanaticism in the Middle East and [make] a chronically unstable region … even more unstable….” Senator Strom Thurmond and other Republicans and Democrats disagreed, arguing: “A vote in support of the President [authorizing war against Iraq] is a vote for peace.”[56] Their voices prevailed, and the royal families of the Persian Gulf, including those of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, became hotbeds of the terror fundraising and incitement that led to 9/11. They had been saved from secular republican politics by the war to eject Iraq from Kuwait and the border area with Saudi Arabia.[57]

George W. Bush formed a “strategic partnership” with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, the purpose of which was “restructuring Iraq.”[58] Journalists and neoconservatives saw few drawbacks and several potential benefits of invading Iraq. Because they saw Saudi Arabia and Turkey as helpful allies, they thought that the transition to a moderate democracy in Baghdad would be cheap and would not take long.[59] After all, if ibn Saud and Mustafa Kemal could bloodlessly build moderate societies under British and French tutelage in the 1930s (as the myths handed down say), why couldn’t Tariq al-Hashemi or Iyad Allawi do the same thing in Iraq? In terms of other benefits, Russia’s contracts to drill for oil could be expropriated.[60] Analogous beneficial results had been obtained for the anti-Russian alliance through subversion and financing extremists in 1950s Iran and 1960s Iraq.[61]

In 2003, Bernard Lewis was a strong supporter of invading Iraq, arguing that a successful democracy like Germany or Japan would be created.[62] In 2012, he welcomed the Arab Spring as cause for optimism that a Turkish-style democracy would emerge in the Arab states, led by “religious organizations,” “craft guilds,” and the “increasing participation of women.” CNN and other corporate media praise Lewis as the “world’s greatest historian of the Middle East.” Foreign domination of the Middle East was brief and ended decades before 2011, he said in 2012. Liberal democracy is “suitable for the English-speaking peoples,” whereas Middle Eastern societies have democracies like that of Turkey, where authority comes from religious organizations, guilds, and other apolitical associations. The Justice and Development party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power in a free and fair election, and Turkey in the 1950s conducted the first genuinely free and fair elections in the Middle East, Lewis claimed.[63] Turkey enjoyed the “best prospects” for a “compromise” between freedom and fundamentalism, he argued. Despite some “difficulties,” it had a “parliamentary democracy” for “more than half a century.”[64] In fact, restrictive rules disqualifying advocates of liberty or equality from forming political parties in Turkey, along with a series of military coups, have shaped this “democracy.”[65]

Having forgotten or suppressed the actual history of the Middle East, the neoconservatives and so-called liberal interventionists projected a delusional future if their policies were adopted. In 1992, the second edition of Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations, the book by liberal interventionist Michael Walzer that is often read by students of politics and military ethics, argued that humanitarian intervention and preemptive war could promote peace by protecting the “political independence” of nations, while “uphold[ing] the values of individual life of which sovereignty is merely an expression.”[66] In 2002, President George W. Bush declared that by preemptive war, he would guarantee American security and lives while protecting liberty.[67] In his 2004 State of the Union address, President Bush posed as a guardian of liberty at home while promoting democracy around the world.[68]

Since 2003, Americans enjoyed deteriorating national security, increasing loss of life, and ever-declining liberty as a result of Bush’s policies. The number of terrorist attacks tripled from 2003 to 2004.[69] More Americans died in Iraq than in all terror attacks under presidents Clinton and Bush prior to the war.[70] The American Civil Liberties Union reported in 2004 that Americans were trapped in a “surveillance society.”[71] In 2006, the ACLU condemned the “Orwellian doublespeak” that prevented legislative or judicial oversight of how many people had lost their civil freedoms, and for what reasons.[72]

The idea of an alliance to protect freedom, led by Bush and aided by the Saudis and Turkey, could only make sense to those who systematically distorted the English language. For example, the Brookings Institution and Washington Institute for Near East Policy called Turkey “secular” even though it “has created a tradition of ‘state Islam’ whereby the government builds and staffs mosques….”[73] Bush aide Paul Wolfowitz went to the absurd extent of saying that Turkey was “committed to the values of separation of religion and government that underlie this modern secular democracy.”[74] Noah Feldman, an aide who helped draft a constitution for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, argued that because Turkey had no official religion, there could be a successful democracy in Iraq in which minorities and women were treated equally, there was no “breeding ground” for terrorism, and there was a rule of law.[75] This argument began with a false premise and ended with a delusional prediction. Feldman implied that the fact that many 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia was a reason why Iraq had to have an official religion along with a democratic system.[76] It was an argument that began with a non-sequitur and ended with a contradiction in terms. Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution proposed war with Iraq but only a “hard discussion” with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the places where the 9/11 hijackers were raised.[77]

After Iraq’s democratic government and official religion came on the scene in 2005, the results have been disastrous. Death squads were formed on religious and sectarian lines, such as al Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq, the Badr Bridges, the Fury Brigade, the Wolf Brigade, the Mahdi Army, and others.[78] A prosecutor for U.N.-backed Multi-National Force Iraq in cases before the Central Criminal Court of Iraq concluded in 2006 that some Iraqi judges follow “Sunni clerics, who have glorified the insurgency; … [while] others have called for the murder of Americans, and have commanded lenient treatment for captured terrorists.”[79] Due to the country’s “official religion,” the Iraqi courts and “Iraqi positive law support[] this religious discrimination in favor of Islamic insurgents.”[80] This result may have been expected by those who endorsed a theory explained by Richard Falkenrath at the Brookings Institution in 2005: religious violence in Iraq was good for the United States because it operated as a type of “flypaper” trap for “Sunni terrorists” and “Shiites.”[81]

Refugee movements, regime change, and militia formation are “accelerators” for genocide.[82] The United Nations and antiwar activists like Martin Sheen predicted two to three million Iraqi refugees, and refugee groups have in the past been a breeding-ground for violence.[83] About 100,000 excess deaths happened in Iraq by September 2004, 600 car bombs went off in civilian areas by 2006, and half the Christian population fled the country.[84] The median per capita income fell to less than a dollar a day, as food prices surged.[85] Iraqi politicians began complaining of genocide as early as 2005.[86] About 600,000 excess violent deaths took place by the fall of 2006, with gunfire and car bombs being important causes of death.[87]

As in the late Ottoman Empire, the Assyrian and Armenian communities were decimated in Iraq. By 2010, Assyrians lost three-quarters of a population of 800,000 to religious cleansing, poverty, and premature death, and Armenians lost half of a prewar population of 20,000.[88] While a census of Mosul in 1920 estimated that the city was about one-seventh Assyrian Christian,[89] the city was by 2010 most likely only 1% Assyrian or less.[90]

A coalition of Iraqi nongovernmental organizations called in 2007 for a series of measures to deescalate the cycle of crimes against humanity in the country. They proposed “transparent inquiries into all allegations of international humanitarian law violations, “inquiries into human rights violations by all parties,” and “ending the state of impunity through adequate judicial mechanisms,” but little interest was shown in such a comprehensive inquiry.[91] As Iraq and other countries warned the U.S. State Department that Saudi Arabia was financing al Qaeda, the Taliban, anti-Hindu extremists in Pakistan, and other terrorist groups, Saudi Arabia was not subjected to the sort of economic sanctions directed at Iraq and Syria.[92]

The Iraq War Comes to Syria, Courtesy of the Neighbors

Nations like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey stand to benefit from a terrorist victory in Syria when their allies gain control over a gas pipeline from the Persian Gulf through Syria to Turkey and Europe.[93] They seem to be happy to sacrifice pluralism and stability for this aim. In their own countries, the percentage of Christians is 1% or less, rather than the 10% of 1980s Iraq or 1990s Syria.[94] These countries also financially or rhetorically supported the Bosnian and Chechen wars, in which the leaders of the Syrian rebels gained experience before heading to Iraq or elsewhere.[95] The Bosnian civil war, which Turkey strongly supported along with Pakistan, reduced the Serbian Christian population of Bosnia and Herzegovina by almost 300,000 persons from 1991 to 1997.[96]

In 2011 and early 2012, Saudi Arabia armed the jihadists in Syria through Iraq and Lebanon.[97] It was obvious that the arms flow from the Saudis would also benefit al Qaeda, placing the entire world in danger of extremism.[98] Russia condemned the “foreign governments [who] were arming ‘militants and extremists’ in Syria,” and argued that U.N. economic sanctions were being used to strangle entire economies, and promote war.[99] Its diplomats estimated that 15,000 foreign terrorists had entered Syria and were killing civilians using those foreign-supplied armaments.[100] The foreign ministries of China, India, Brazil and South Africa agreed that “external interference in Syria’s affairs” should end.[101] The European Union, Turkey, the United States, and the Arab League advocated a “political transition” to a “plural” democracy, as the United States, Turkey, and the United Kingdom had promised in Iraq.[102] The United States called on Russia to deny weapons to the Syrian government,[103] even though Syria alleged that 2,000 government officials had been killed by rebels and infiltrators.[104] U.N. figures suggested a death toll of 5,400 by early 2012.[105]

As in the lead up to the Armenian-Assyrian-Greek genocide, Turkey manipulated destabilizing refugee flows during the crisis. In 1911-1915, the focus was on inciting refugees from the Balkans and Russia to seek revenge on the Allies and Ottoman Christians. In 2012, the rebel chant became “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to their graves.”[106] The leader of the most powerful so-called moderate rebels in Syria called for the religious cleansing of all Alawites and Shiites in Syria.[107] Just as the Committee of Union and Progress promised democracy and worked with Armenian revolutionaries, the Syrian National Council worked with Christian revolutionaries in Syria.[108] As the Ottoman Sultan was supposed to be replaced by a multiethnic, Western-looking, parliamentary democracy under the Committee of Union and Progress, the Syrian National Council promised to replace the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad with a more liberal and democratic era.[109] One might also compare these promises to the transition from the Shah of Iran to the Islamic Republic, and from Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia to the “Democratic Kampuchea” promised by the Khmer Rouge.[110]

Human Rights Watch has concluded that rebels who committed the crimes of hostage taking, massacres, and terrorism in Syria had brought in their “weapons …[,] money and other supplies” from Turkey.[111] The International Crisis Group, a think-tank partially financed by contributions from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, recommended in spring 2013 that Turkey reduce “border crossings by Syrian opposition fighters; do not allow them to use refugee camps as rear bases; ensure there is no pressure on young camp residents to join opposition militias; and establish new refugee camps well away from the border.”[112] Turkey apparently rejected this recommendation.

Syrian extremists grew powerful through “direct access to Gulf [i.e. Saudi and Qatari]-based funding”[113] and received “everything they needed” in Turkey.[114] In July 2012, the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) and al-Qaeda types occupied the Syrian-Turkish border area and declared an Islamic state on YouTube.[115] The FSA’s communications strategy includes often “posting [jihadi] propaganda online.”[116] The FSA declared a holy war in Syria after May 2012, if not earlier,[117] and at least 500 Turks joined this war.[118] The rebel groups Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and [Greater] Syria (ISIS) used similar extremist videos.[119] In early 2014, a Turkish official admitted that the former FSA leaders were not a factor on the ground, instead emphasizing the reality of an “Islamic Front” that included Ahrar al-Sham and Liwa al-Tawhid.[120] According to a joint report of Turkish members of parliament, lawyers, and journalists, the Islamic Front involves the cooperation with ISIS of a number of FSA brigades, including Ahrar al-Sham.[121] As these new fronts and states formed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that is looked to by the United States due to its pro-FSA orientation reported that deaths in Syria rose from 9,000 in 2012 to 100,000 in late 2013.[122]

The Saudi-backed forces that destroyed churches in Baghdad and Mosul from 2004 through 2011, massacring the Christians inside them as well as thousands of Shi’a, subsequently spread to Syria and acted similarly there.[123] Their leaders traveled from Iraq to Syria and there declared a “holy war” in January 2012.[124] With a core of 15,000-20,000 foreigners, there were 150,000 rebels in Syria in late 2013.[125] In 2012, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, the leader of Libyan extremists that al Qaeda’s number two viewed as part of his organization, traveled to Istanbul to meet the FSA, reportedly taking arms and fighters with him.[126]

During the civil war, out of a death toll of 162,000 estimated by pro-opposition sources, the ratio of Syrian rebels to Syrian regime forces killed from 2011 to 2013 was about 1-to-1.5, meaning that more government officials died than rebels and terrorists, 61,100 to 42,700.[127] By way of comparison, in Turkey’s war on “terrorism,” the government reported that five members of pro-Kurdish forces were killed for every member of the Turkish government’s forces, 13,878 to 2,917.[128] In the U.N.-authorized coalition war against Iraq in 1990-1991, the ratio of coalition to Iraqi deaths was almost 100 to one using the minimum figure for violent Iraqi war deaths, or 343 to 30,000, and almost 800 to one including indirect deaths from the health effects of the bombardment and sanctions on Iraq, and the civil strife in 1991, or 343 to 278,000.[129]

The economic sanctions that the United States and European Union adopted inevitably deepened and widened the conflict in Syria. After sanctions cut off Syria’s oil exports, its unemployment rate hit 36% and probably exceeded 50% in 2013-2014.[130] Syrian money lost its value. As one expert said about Iraq in 2006, “[a]fter three years of unemployment in excess of 50 percent, there are no people in the world that wouldn’t be undergoing violence and militias.”[131] A top U.S. commander in Iraq observed that a relatively small rise in umemployment can “have a very serious effect” on sectarian violence in a place like Iraq.[132]

Veteran war correspondent Patrick Cockburn of Britain’s The Independent observes that in northwestern Iraq, the Sunni “leadership has been ceded to a pathologically bloodthirsty and intolerant movement, a sort of Islamic Khmer Rouge, which has no aim but war without end.”[133] One might say the same about the Sunni leadership adjoining the Turkish border, in Aleppo and Homs, and in eastern Syria. It has built very little and plundered a great deal.[134] While the vast majority of Sunnis falling under Iraqi or Syrian government control have not been killed, being outed “as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.”[135] As in Cambodia or Somalia, diversity will be destroyed, pluralism will end, and a formerly functioning society will be devastated.[136]

In April 2014, the Washington Post reported that on March 21, the attack on the Armenian community of Kessab, Syria “was launched from Turkish soil,” with shelling and machine-gun fire coming from Turkish-based “jihadist rebel groups, which included the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and the [FSA’s] Ahrar al-Sham.”[137] Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island drew attention to this attack by “al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists out of Turkey [on] the peaceful Christian-Armenian community in a town that has served as a place of refuge for those trying desperately to escape the bloodshed of the past three years.”[138] Christian refugees from Aleppo and Homs told journalist Nuri Kino that they fled because rebel brigades “were trying to kill [them] … because [they] are Christian….”[139] The Armenian Apostolic Church of America, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and Chaldean Catholic Church have reported that extremists have burned or plundered 30 percent of churches in Syria” and “driven out virtually all the population from the Christian towns of Maaloula and Kessab.”[140] These churches’ leaders warn that: “Turkey offers an example of what the future may hold for the region as a whole: the Christian population constitutes a mere 0.15 percent of that country’s 79 million people, down from almost a quarter of the population a century ago.”[141]

The crimes of the insurgents and foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria would already have been recognized as a genocide had their targets not been Shi’as and Christians. In 1974, the Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit called the civil strife in Cyprus a “genocide” because one Turkish woman was sexually assaulted, hundreds of Turkish Cypriots became displaced, and “the Turkish Cypriot villages are still under siege.” Turkey’s foreign ministry continues to make this charge today, based on reports that 200 to 300 Turkish Cypriots went missing in 1963-1964, and that dozens of Turkish Cypriot men and one Turkish Cypriot teenage girl may have been killed by Greek Cypriots in 1974.[142] In 1986, the Turkish foreign ministry told the United Nations that Bulgaria was committing “cultural genocide” by demolishing mosques, changing Turkish names to Bulgarian ones, restricting the speaking of Turkish, and “dream[ing] of a ‘greater Bulgaria.’”[143] In 2002, Turkey called Israeli raids into the West Bank in search of suicide bomb factories and men on Israel’s wanted list a genocide, after reports of a massacre in Jenin.[144] In 2009, Prime Minister Erdoğan claimed that there was a genocide in China when 148 people died in ethnic clashes between Han Chinese and the Turkic Uighur Muslims of East Turkestan.[145]


Censorship, ignorance, and indifference about Turkey’s history and the nature of its government contributed to policies that may destroy Iraq and Syria. Poorly-planned interventionism, chaotic regime change, alliances with bad actors, and the weaponization of refugee camps have magnified localized strife into religious genocides. Politicians should study the lessons of how the British Empire broke its paper promises to the Ottoman Christians after the Crimean War, after which Ottoman Christian communities were lost. New promises of a pluralistic and democratic Iraq and Syria ring hollow in light of history.


[1] Rene Lemarchand, The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), p. 89; Rene Lemarchand, “Introduction,” in Rene Lemarchand (Ed.), Forgotten Genocides: Oblivion, Denial, and Memory (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), p. 5-7.

[2] Lemarchand, “Introduction,” p. 7.

[3] Adam Jones, The Scourge of Genocide: Essays and Reflections (London: Routledge, 2013),

[4] Ibid.

[5] Lemarchand, Dynamics, pp. ix, 4, 84-87, 92-93, 104-121, Lemarchand, “Introduction,” pp. 6-7, 13-15; Jones, Scourge of Genocide,

[6] Lemarchand, Dynamics, 20, 76, 122-126.

[7] Karl Marx, The Eastern Question: A Reprint of Letters Written 1853-1856 Dealing with the Events of the Crimean War (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1897). p. 374.

[8] H.P. Selmer, “On the Turkish Question,” The New Monthly Magazine and Universal Register 101 (1854), p. 75.

[9] A.J.P. Taylor, “John Bright and the Crimean War,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 36, 1954, pp. 501-22, p. 509.

[10] Vahakn Dadrian, The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus (New York: Berghahn Books, 1995), pp. 7-19, 26-93, 113-171.

[11] Elizabeth Wormeley Latimer, Russia and Turkey in the Nineteenth Century (1893), pp. 165, 233.

[12] Dadrian, The History of the Armenian Genocide, p. 67, quoting Treaty of Paris, 1856, art. 7.

[13] British and French banks helped the Ottomans raise tens of millions of dollars of pounds in the period between the Crimean and Russo-Turkish Wars, helping finance an Ottoman deficit that reached half the amount of the budget by 1875-1876. Frederick Martin, The Statesman’s Year-book 1878, pp. 465-70.

[14] Gerard Libaridian, “What Was Revolutionary About Armenian Revolutionary Parties in the Ottoman Empire?”, in Ronald Suny, Fatma Göçek, and Norman Naimark (Eds.), A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 84, 106.

[15] Ibid., pp. 87-88, 102.

[16] Ibid., pp. 107, 111-12; Fikret Adanir, “Non-Muslims in the Ottoman Army and the Ottoman Defeath in the Balkan War of 1912-1913,” in Suny et al. (Eds.), A Question of Genocide, pp. 124-25.

[17] Raymond Kévorkian, The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History (New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011), pp. 51-166. As this author observes, such hopes were placed in the Young Turks and their revolution that “was supposed to make good the democratic defi cit and ensure the security of all the empire’s subjects” that “it brought all armed activity conducted by Albanians, Macedonians, or Armenians to an end, for they all supported the new regime.” Ibid., p. 47. A written constitution was believed to have “made it possible in theory to democratize the country’s political life and allow the opposition to be heard.” Ibid., p. 66.

[18] Vahakn Dadrian, “The Documentation of the Armenian Genocide in German and Austrian Sources,” in Israel Charny (Ed.), The Widening Circle of Genocide: Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1994), pp. 109-111, 116.

[19] Ibid., p. 107.

[20] Ibid., pp. 106-116; Dadrian, History of the Armenian Genocide, pp. 236-246; Matthias Bjornlund, “’The 1914 Cleansing of Aegean Greeks as a Case of Violent Turkification,” in Dominik Schaller and Jürgen Zimmerer (Eds.), Late Ottoman Genocides: The Dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and Young Turk Population and Extermination Policies (London: Routledge, 2d ed. 2013), p. 39

[21] Dadrian, History of the Armenian Genocide, pp. 193, 198, 236-246; Bjornlund, “’The 1914 Cleansing,” p. 39.

[22] Quoted in Taner Akçam, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility (New York, 2007), p. 115.

[23] Ibid., p. 116.

[24] Akçam, A Shameful Act, pp. 126-27. See also “Says Turks Advise Christians to Flee,” The New York Times, Jan. 11, 1915, p. 2.

[25] DuA Doc.109 (abbr.), 1915-07-09-DE-002-E-m, No. 35/J.No.Geh.(secr.) 316 (July 9, 1915) (Linda Struck trans.), the German consul in Trabzon, Dr. Bergfeld, to the German Imperial Chancellor, Bethmann Hollweg,

[26] Akçam, A Shameful Act, p. 126.

[27] Dadrian, The Armenian Genocide, pp. 254-255, 259-64.

[28] Gabriele Yonan, Ein vergessener Holocaust (Gesellschaft fur bedrohte Volker, 1989), pp. 86-97, 250.

[29] DE/PA-AA/Bo. Kons./B. 169, June 6, 1915, telegram from the Consul in Aleppo, Dr. Walter Rößler, to the German Embassy in Constantinople, Wangenheim, quoted in Johannes Lepsius, Deutschland und Armenien: Sammlung diplomatischer Aktenstücke, 1914-1918 (Potsdam: Tempelverlag, 1919), p. 84.

[30] K170, folio 33, Aug. 2, 1915, p. 99, telegram from the (Special) Imperial German Ambassador, Ernst Wilhelm Hohenlohe, to the German Consul in Aleppo, Dr. Walter Rößler, quoted in Lepsius, Deutschland, pp. lxxviii, 116.

[31] Quoted in Donald Bloxham, “The Armenian Genocide of 1915–1916: Cumulative Radicalization and the Development of a Destruction Policy,” Past and Present 181 (2003): 149, 156-57.

[32] Dadrian, “The Documentation of the Armenian Genocide,” p. 99.

[33] Fuat Dundar, The Crime of Numbers: The Role of Statistics in the Armenian Question (1878-1918) (Transaction Publishers, 2011), p. 152.

[34] Quoted in David Gaunt, Massacres, Resistance, Protectors (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2006), pp. 143–46; Hannibal Travis, “The Cultural and Intellectual Property Interests of the Indigenous Peoples of Turkey and Iraq,” Texas Wesleyan Law Review 15 (2009), pp. 415, 436–40.

[35] DE/PA-AA/R14093, 1916-A-24663, Sept. 10, 1916, Chief of the Kaiser’s Civil Cabinet, Valentini, to the German Imperial Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg; Travis, “‘Native Christians Massacred,’” p. 336.

[36] Paul Shimmon, “Urmia, Salmas, and Hakkari: Statement to the Armenian Journal ‘Ararat,’” in Ara Sarafian, Viscount James Bryce, and Arnold Toynbee (Eds.), The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-1916 (London: Gomidas, 2000), pp. 200-203; Lady Surma d’Bait Mar Shimun, “Refugees from Hakkari: Letter to Mrs. D.S. Margoliouth,” in ibid., pp. 203-218; Paul Shimmon, “Hakkiari: Further Statement Published in the ‘Churchman’ Newspaper,” in The Treatment of Armenians,

[37] “303,238 Massacred, Greek Minister Says,” The New York Times, May 31, 1922, p. 3; see also, Central Council of Pontus, Black Book: The Tragedy of Pontus 1914—1922 (Athens: n.p. 1922); “Greco-Turkish Atrocities,” Current History: A Monthly Magazine of The New York Times, Volume 16: April—September 1922, pp. 475-76; “Massacres of Greek in Turkey Reported,” The New York Times, Apr. 20 1916, p. 6,; “1,000,000 Greeks Killed?” The New York Times, Jan. 1 1918, p. 15; “Germans Inspired Turkish Atrocities Against Asiatic Greeks,” The New York Times, Sept. 29, 1918, p. 2; The Parliamentary Debates (Official Report): House of Commons, vol. 154 (1922), pp. 47-48; cf. Raffi Bedrosyan, “The Genocide of the Pontic Greeks,” The Armenian Weekly, July 2, 2014,

[38] “Morgenthau Urges Carving of Turkey,” The Los Angeles Times, Dec. 12, 1918, p. I-1.

[39] R.J. Rummel, Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900 (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1998), p. 223-235.

[40] Dadrian, History of the Armenian Genocide, p. 356; Treaty of Peace between the British Empire and Allied Powers and Turkey UK Treaty Series No.11 of 1920 [Treaty of Sèvres], 10 Aug. 1920 (not ratified by all parties),,_Articles_1_-_260.

[41] Ryan Gingeras, Sorrowful Shores: Violence, Ethnicity, and the End of the Ottoman Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 74-75.

[42] Center for Jewish History, Raphael Lemkin Collection, Box 8, Folder 8, Methods of Genocide: Greeks Versus Turks, undated, pp. 1-2,

[43] Alfred van der Zee, the Danish consul at Smyrna, reported that these actions were committed by extremist Muslim refugees from the Balkans or the Caucasus. Matthais Bjornlund, “The Persecution of Greeks and Armenians in Smyrna, 1914-1916: A Special Course in the Case of the ‘Late Ottoman Genocides,’” in George Shirinian (Ed.), The Asia Minor Catastrophe and the Ottoman Greek Genocide (Bloomington, IL: The Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Center, Inc., 2012), p. 101.

[44] Dadrian, History of the Armenian Genocide, p. 360.

[45] Stanley E. Hopkins, “Report on Conditions in the Interior of Anatolia under the Turkish Nationalist Government” (Nov. 16, 1921),, quoted in Adam Jones, “Notes on the Genocides of Christian Populations of the Ottoman Empire,” Genocide Text (blog), 2007,

[46] Ibid.

[47] Mark O. Prentiss, “Eyewitness Story of Smyrna’s Horror,” The New York Times, Sept. 18, 1922, p. 1; Tessa Hofmann, “The Genocide Against the Christians in the Late Ottoman Period, 1912-1922,” in Shirinian (Ed.), The Asia Minor Catastrophe, p. 58; Fotiades, pp. 56-.

[48] “Full Text of Premier’s Speech,” The New York Times, Oct. 15, 1922, p. 20.

[49] Ibid.

[50] George Horton, The Blight of Asia: An Account of the Systematic Extermination of Christian Populations by Mohammedans and of the Culpability of Certain Great Powers; with the True Story of the Burning of Smyrna (New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1926), ch. XXVIII.

[51] E.S.M., India Office, “The Assyrian and Armenian Refugees in Mesopotamia,” C.P. 1270 (5 July 1920), p. 5.

[52] Rafael de Nogales, Four Years Beneath the Crescent (Mona Lee trans., New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920), p. 259

[53] Halil İnalcık [Turkish Minister of Culture], “Foreword,” in The Great Ottoman Turkish Civilisation, vol. 6 (Ankara: Yeni Türkiye, 2000), p. ix.

[54] Dan Balz and Ann Devroy, “For Bush, Persian Gulf War Was Transforming Moment; Long Experience Shaped Leadership Policies,” The Washington Post, Mar. 3, 1991, p. A1. “Confrontation in the Gulf; Many Prominent Americans Support the President’s Action in the Gulf . . . Resistance to Blatant Aggression, Defense of Allies and, Above All, Oil,” The New York Times, Aug. 13, 1990, p. A10. Martin Indyk is another neoconservative who endorsed the Iraq wars of 1990-1991 and 2003-2013, becoming Bill Clinton’s expert on the Middle East during the period of sanctions on Iraq that led to hundreds of thousands of avoidable civilian deaths. Jonathan Broder, “Balancing Act at the NSC,” The Jerusalem Report, Feb. 11, 1993, p. 34. Richard Morin, “Will Sight of Iraq’s Civilian Casualties Hurt Allies’ Cause?; Innocents’ Deaths Historically Viewed as Unavoidable,” The Washington Post, Feb. 14, 1991, p. A33.

[55] John Judis, “On the Home Front: The Gulf War’s Strangest Bedfellows; Will the AIPAC/Bandar/Defense Industry Alliance Survive the Peace?,” The Washington Post, June 23, 1991, p. B4. In 1996, Perle co-authored the study that advocated preemptive war on Iraq. Donald E. Schmidt, The Folly of War: American Foreign Policy, 1898-2005 (New York: Algora), p. 346. Over the next decade, the neoconservatives at the American Enteprise Institute issued a number of calls for war against Iraq, accompanied by endorsements of the Saudi monarchy. E.g., Hannibal Travis, Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan (Carolina Academic Press, 2010), pp. 497-98.

[56] Quoted in “Confrontation in the Gulf; War and Peace; A Sampling from the Debate on Capitol Hill,” The New York Times, Jan. 11, 1991, p. A8.

[57] Patrick Cockburn, “Iraq Crisis: How Saudi Arabia Helped Isis Take Over the North of the Country,” The Independent, 13 July 2014,; Travis, Genocide in the Middle East, pp. 496-499, 524-25. Among other evidence, U.S. Senator Bob Graham in 2003 leaked the fact that the Bush administration had censored a key report on the 9/11 attacks, which showed that “high officials of a foreign government,” probably Saudi Arabia, had financed the planning, rehearsals, and perpetration of the attack. Travis, Genocide in the Middle East, p. 496; Eric Herman and James Gordon Meek, “Pol: Reveal 9/11 File; Censored Pages Implicate Allies,” New York Daily News, July 28, 2003.

[58] “George W. Bush Holds Media Availability With Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey,” FDCH Political Transcripts, Jan. 28, 2004, LexisNexis Academic.

[59] Some Brookings Institution scholars estimated that a force smaller than 100,000 and costs of about $100-250 billion would be needed to stabilize Iraq from 2004 onwards. Daniel Byman, “Rebuilding the New Iraq: The Role of the Intervening Forces,” Survival, vol. 44(3), Autumn 2002, pp. 57-71; Michael O’Hanlon, Statement to the Hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on “U.S. Policy Towards Iraq,” Federal News Service, Oct. 2, 2002, LexisNexis Academic. Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon and others estimated that as few as 100 American-led and 2,000 Iraqi soldiers might die in the war, although the numbers might be as high as 5,000 coalition and 50,000 Iraqi soldiers if the government did not quickly capitulate (which it did). Michael O’Hanlon, “Estimating Casualties in a War to Overthrow Saddam,” Orbis, Winter 2003, p. 39; Phillip Gordan and Michael O’Hanlon, “Should the War on Terrotism Target Iraq?”, Brookings Institution, Jan. 2002, p. 5. Indyk and other Brookings experts expected the help of Turkey and the moderate Arab states such as Saudi Arabia in promoting democracy. Daniel Byman, “Terrorism and the War with Iraq,” Iraq Memo #12, Mar. 3, 2003; Philip Gordon, Martin Indyk and Michael O’Hanlon, “Getting Serious About Iraq,” Survival, vol. 44(3), Autumn 2002. In fact, both Saudi Arabia and Turkey became hubs for the financing and logistics of al Qaeda, which destroyed many of Iraq’s institutions. Turkish nationals aided al Qaeda with “key logistics such as international money transfers and a base for international travel for its members.” Senam A. Düzgit & Ruşan Çakir, “Turkey: A Sustainable Case of De-Radicalisation?”, Islamist Radicalisation: The Challenge for Euro-Mediterranean Relations (Michael Emerson, Kristina Kausch, Richard Youngs, & Omayma Abdel-Latif et al. eds., Brussels & Madrid: Center for European Policy Studies & FRIDE, 2009), p. 99. Numerous Saudis and Turks were captured alongside al Qaeda forces in formerly Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan. Travis, Genocide in the Middle East, p. 499. An economic expert with the Brookings Institution co-authored a report estimating that oil would be cheaper from 2007-2014 than $35 per barrel, which was about one-half to one-third of its average price during that period. He and his co-author estimated that stocks would be higher in 2009 than in 2003-2005. Warwick McKibbin & Andrew Stoeckel, The Economic Costs of a War in Iraq (7 March 2003). In fact, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 8,214.68 in late March 2003, and rose through 2005, but was only 8,006.20 in late April 2009.

[60] Dan Morgan and David Ottaway, “U.S. Drillers Eye Huge Petroleum Pool,” The Washington Post, Sept. 15, 2002, p. A1. In 2001, Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force called the sanctions on Iran, Iraq, and Libya an impediment to U.S. companies’ plans for exploiting the most important oil fields in the world. Craig Unger, House of Bush, House of Saud (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), p. 225.

[61] Politicians perceived to be pro-Soviet had been deposed by subversion in those decades. Patrick Cockburn, “Revealed: How the West Set Saddam on the Bloody Road to Power,” The Independent (U.K.), June 29, 1997,; David Morgan, “Ex-U.S. Official Says CIA Aided Baathists,” Reuters, April 20, 2003; Roger Morris, “A Tyrant 40 Years in the Making,” The New York Times, Mar. 14, 2003,; James Risen, “Secrets of History,” The New York Times, Apr. 16, 2000,; “The Violent Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein,” Chicago Tribune, Dec. 15, 2003,

[62] Diana Zlomislic, “Islam Expert Hopeful on Iraq,” Toronto Star, April 2, 2003, p. A16.

[63] “Interview with Bernard Lewis,” CNN Fareed Zakaria GPS, Sept. 2, 2012, available on

[64] Bernard Lewis, The End of Modern History in the Middle East (Hoover Institution Press, 2011), p. 15.

[65] While 35% of the votes were cast for the Justice and Development Party in 2002, 40% of the votes were not counted because they were cast for parties that were disqualified under Turkish law. Herb Keinon

“Turkish Party with Islamic Roots Wins in Landslide,” The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 4, 2002, p. 1. Article 81 of the Turkish Law on Political Parties prohibits any political parties that recognize the existence of racial or national minorities within Turkey, or that propose to permit the use of “languages or cultures other than Turkish.” Olgun Akbulut, “The State of Political Participation of Minorities in Turkey – An Analysis under the ECHR and the ICCPR,” International Journal of Minority & Group Rights, Vol. 12 (2005), pp. 375-388, 376. This forecloses democratic debate on one of the main issues confronting the society, the discrimination against and suppression of minority cultures and languages. Turkey also arbitrarily closes political parties and imprisons journalists and politicians for criticizing the ultranationalism of the mainstream parties. Anatolia News Agency, “Turkey: EU MP Says Closing pro-Kurdish Party Will Not End Terrorism,” BBC Monitoring Europe – Political, Nov. 21, 2007, LexisNexis Academic (search Major World Publications); Robert Fulford, “A Nation in Denial,” National Post (Canada), Feb. 3, 2007, LexisNexis Academic; “Kurdish Spokesman Gets 18 Months for Insulting Turkey,” BBC Monitoring Europe,” Jan. 24, 2007; “Turkey: Newspaper Editor, Publisher Sentenced for ‘insulting Turkishness’,” BBC Monitoring Europe – Political, October 12, 2007; “Turkish Freedoms Reform Criticised as Inadequate,” EuroNews – English Version, April 30, 2008;

[66] Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (New York: Basic Books, 2d ed. 1992), pp. 85, 108.

[67] William Safire, “‘To Fight Freedom’s Fight,” The New York Times, Jan. 31, 2002, p. A25; Julian Borger, “US Set for Iraq Election Retreat: Bush Speech War ‘Making World Safer’,” The Guardian (U.K.), January 21, 2004, p. 1; Daniel Pipes, “A Failure on All Fronts,” National Post (Canada), Jan. 15, 2008, p. A15.

[68] Borger, “US Set for Iraq Election Retreat.”

[69] Peter Bergen and Alan Reynolds, “Blowback Revisited,” Foreign Affairs, Nov.-Dec. 2005,

[70] Alison Stewart and Rachel Martin, “Grim Number Passed in Iraq War,” National Public Radio’s The Bryant Park Project 7:00-8:00, Mar. 24, 2008, LexisNexis Academic.

[71] Jay Stanley, The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government is Conscripting Business and Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society, ACLU (2004), available at

[72] Adam Liptak, “Arguments on Spy Program Are Heard by Federal Judge,” The New York Times, June 13, 2006, p. A17.

[73] Soner Cagaptay, “March to Modernity,” The Washington Post, Mar. 13, 2005, p. T07; Soner Cagaptay, “Prepared Statement Before the House International Relations Committee on ‘Turkey’s Future Direction and the U.S.-Turkey Relations,’” Federal News Service, Oct. 1, 2003, LexisNexis Academic; Reuters, “Thrust on to Terror’s Front Line – Extremists Aim to Destabilise Secular, US-allied Turkey,” The Weekend Australian, Nov. 22, 2003, p. 14. In cheering on regime change in Iraq, one Brookings Institution scholar endorsed “the Turkish model for Iraq,” calling Turkey “probably the only secular, Muslim, pro-Western, democratic country in the Islamic world.” Omer Taspinar, Statement to the Middle East Policy Council on “Aftershocks of War: What Purposes Have Been Fulfilled?,” Federal News Service, June 20, 2003, LexisNexis Academic.

[74] “Bush Rallies Nation for War,” CNN Inside Politics, Feb. 20, 2003, LexisNexis Academic.

[75] “Interview with Noah Feldman, Samantha Power,” PBS — The Charlie Rose Show, January 21, 2004, LexisNexis Academic.

[76] Joan Mcalpine, “Why America Must Learn to Love an Islamic-led Iraq,” The Herald (Glasgow), Oct. 30, 2003, p. 18.

[77] Warren P. Strobel, “For U.S., Foes and Friends Hard to Track; Foreign Policy Since Sept. 11 is a New World,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 3, 2011, p. A06. He called the Arab states other than Iraq “moderate.” Robin Wright, “US Taking a Wider View of Islamic World,” The Los Angeles Times/The Straits Times, Mar. 5, 2002, LexisNexis Academic. Most al Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba were from these states, mostly Saudi Arabia, rather than from Iraq. Travis, Genocide in the Middle East, p. 499.

[78] Daniel Byman, “Five Bad Options for Iraq,” Brookings Institution (2005),; Travis, Genocide in the Middle East, pp. 517-18; “Wolf Brigade (Iraq),” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2014),

[79] Michael J. Frank, “U.S. Military Courts and the War in Iraq,” Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 39 (2006), pp. 645-778, 728.

[80] Ibid., p. 730.

[81] Al Kamen, “If Democracy Fails, Try Civil War,” The Washington Post, Sept. 28, 2005, p. A19.

[82] Travis, Genocide in the Middle East, p. 517, quoting John L. Davies et al., “Dynamic Data for Early Conflict Warning,” in John Davies et al. (Eds.), Preventive Measures: Building Risk Assessment and Early Crisis Warning Systems (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 1996), pp. 79-88.

[83] Travis, Genocide in the Middle East, p. 515. See also, “Actor Martin Sheen Attacked for Antiwar Views,” World Socialist Web Site (Mar. 12, 2003),

[84] Travis, Genocide in the Middle East, pp. 516, 519, 525-540.

[85] U.N. Development Programme, Iraq Living Conditions Survey 2004: Volume II, Analytical Report (2005), p. 138.

[86] Travis, Genocide in the Middle East, pp. 532-33.

[87] Gregg Zoroya, “Study Estimates 600,000 Iraqis Dead by Violence,” USA Today, Oct. 10, 2006,

[88] Michael Binyon, “Churches Under Fire Across Half the Globe,” The Times (U.K.), Apr. 22, 2011,; Valentinas Mite, “Iraq: Tiny Ethnic-Armenian Community Survived Hussein, Making It In Postwar Times,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, July 6, 2004,;, “About 10,000 Armenians Live in Iraq,” By way of comparison, if the Assyrian population had grown at the same rate as the 90% of the population of Iraq that is Muslim, i.e. by 30% since 2000, it would have gained 240,000 members.

[89] Sir William Willcox, “Mesopotamia,” in The Encyclopedia Britannica (New York: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1922), p. 916.

[90] Christian Solidarity International, Terror Reigns over Mosul’s Christians: CSI & Hamorabi Deliver Emergency Relief (2008),; Daniel Gonzales, Networked Forces in Stability Operations: 101st Airborne Division, 3/2 and 1/25 Stryker Brigades in Northern Iraq (Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corp., 2007), p. 24.

[91] Antonio Guterres et al., “Iraq’s Displacement Crisis: The Search for Solutions,” Forced Migration Review (2007),

[92] Cockburn, “Iraq Crisis.”

[93] Ambassador Richard L. Morningstar, U.S. Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy, The U.S. Perspective on Eurasian Energy: Remarks in Istanbul, Turkey, September 30, 2010,

[94] CIA, World Factbook 2008, With a population more than three times that of Syria’s in 2010, Turkey had a third as many native (Orthodox) Christians remaining on its territory. Conrad Hackett & Brian J. Grim, Global Christianity, A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population 84-85 (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, December 19, 2011),; United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision (2009), With an overall population 30% larger than Syria’s, Saudi Arabia has a tenth of the Orthodox Christian population. In fact, the number of Iraqi Christians taking refuge in Damascus dwarfed the entire Christian population of Turkey. Compare Hackett and Grim, Global Christianity, with “Syrian Sanctuary for Iraq’s Displaced Christians,” The Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), Sept. 4, 2006.

[95] Nibras Kazimi, “Handing Jihadis Cause,” Newsweek (International Edition), May 9, 2011, LexisNexis Academic (“Magazine Stories, Combined” database); Maud S. Beelman, “In Bosnia, Arms Embargo Looks Like a Sieve,” Associated Press/The Daily Courier, July 31, 1994, p. A12; Millard Burr & Robert O. Collins, Revolutionary Sudan: Hasan al-Turabi and the Islamist State, 1989-2000‎ (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2003), pp. 142-43; Center for Post-Soviet and East European Studies, Yugoslavia Events Chronology, Jan. – June 1992 (2008),; Netherlands Institute for War Documentation, Final Report on “Srebrenica, a ‘safe’ area – Reconstruction, background, consequences and analyses of the fall of a safe area” (2002), quoted in Cees Wiebes, Intelligence and the War in Bosnia, 1992-1995 (Munster: LIT Verlag, 2003), pp. 196-97.

[96] John Lampe, Yugoslavia as History: Twice There Was a Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 368.

[97] Jonathan Schanzer, “Saudi Arabia Is Arming the Syrian Opposition: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?,” Foreign Policy, Feb. 27, 2012,

[98] Ibid.

[99] “Russia Warns Against Support for Arab Uprisings,” The New York Times, Jan. 19, 2012,

[100] Tom Miles, “Russia Says 15,000 Foreign ‘Terrorists’ in Syria,” Reuters, Mar. 8, 2012,,0,556393.story.

[101] Pepe Escobar, “The Shadow War in Syria,” Asia Times, Dec. 2, 2011,

[102] Associated Press, UN Security Council Discusses Crisis in Syria, Reviews Arab-European Draft Resolution, The Washington Post,

[103] Eleonore Dermy, “Russia to Keep up Syria Arms Sales,” Agence France-Presse, Aug. 17, 2011; Christopher Brauchli, “Arms and the World,” Common Dreams (Jan. 7, 2012),

[104] “Assad Offers Freedoms After Forces Kill 37,” Yahoo News, May 24, 2011,

[105] Associated Press, “UN Security Council Discusses Crisis in Syria, Reviews Arab-European Draft Resolution,” The Washington Post, Jan. 27, 2012,

[106] Simon Adams, “The World’s Next Genocide,” The New York Times, Nov. 15, 2012,

[107] Joshua Landis, “Zahran `Alloush: His Ideology and Beliefs,” Syria Comment, Dec. 15, 2013,

[108] Press Conference: Syriac National Council of Syria (Jan. 23, 2014),; “Syriacs Join Opposition to Topple Al-Assad Government,” Hurriyet Turkish Daily News, Oct. 9, 2012,

[109] As John Kerry said in 2012, the Syrian rebels could be governed by the Syrian National Council, which he urged to “unify politically, to put national aspirations ahead of personal ambitions, to categorically reject radicalism, and to reassure religious and ethnic minorities that they will enjoy full freedoms in a tolerant and pluralist post-Assad society.” The Syrian people would eventually “speak with one voice that represents the full diversity of Syrian society and also embraces the values that will bring the global community to its side.” John Kerry, Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, “Statement Introducing a Hearing on ‘Syria Crisis and Its Implications,’” Roll Call Transcripts, Mar. 1, 2012, LexisNexis Academic

[110] In 1976, the Khmer Rouge promised the rule of law and democratic elections to a parliament, with a judiciary chosen by it. Raoul M. Jennar (Ed.), The Cambodian Constitutions (1953-1993), In 1978-1980, Ayatollah Khomeini “broadened his mass appeal” by endorsing democratic elections and working with other opposition groups, but created a more monarchical or dictatorial system once “he consolidated power.” Stephen Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror (New York: Wiley, 2003), pp. 197-98.

[111] Human Rights Watch, Syria: Executions, Hostage Taking by Rebels (Oct. 11, 2013),

[112] International Crisis Group (ICG), Blurring the Borders: Syrian Spillover Risks for Turkey, Crisis Group Europe Report N°225, 30 April 2013, p. iv.

[113] ICG, Tentative Jihad: Syria’s Fundamentalist Opposition, Crisis Group Middle East Report N°131, 12 October 2012, pp. 10, 20.

[114] ICG, The Rising Costs of Turkey’s Syrian Quagmire, Crisis Group Europe Report N°230, 30 April 2014, p. 31.

[115] Ibid., p. 20.

[116] Ibid., p. 22.

[117] Ibid., p. 10.

[118] Ibid., p. 39.

[119] Ibid., p. 13.

[120] Ibid., pp. 30-31.

[121] Peace Association of Turkey and Lawyers for Justice, War Crimes Committed Against the People of Syria: Report (Dec. 2013/Jan. 9, 2014), § 1.1,

[122] “Annan with a Plan,” The Economist, Mar. 31, 2012,|mea; “Jihadist Rebel Group in Syria Calls for Aleppo Mobilization,” (Nov. 15, 2013),

[123] Cockburn, “Iraq Crisis”; Travis, Genocide in the Middle East, pp. 536-37. In 2012, the Syrian government reported that the same terrorist groups that had killed 2,500 public officials “had targeted mosques, churches and monasteries.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, “Situation of Human Rights in the Syrian Arab Republic: Implementation of Human Rights Council Resolution 19/22,” U.N. Doc. No. A/HRC/20/37 (June 22, 2012), p. 5. Fourteen churches were destroyed in the first two years of war. Society for Threatened Peoples, “Written Statement to Human Rights Council,” U.N. Doc. No. A/HRC/22/NGO/143 (Feb. 22, 2013), p. 3. See also, Al Hayat, “Pan-Arab Newspaper on Why 13 Free Syrian Army Factions Disregard Opposition Bloc,” BBC Monitoring Middle East – Political, Oct. 10, 2013, LexisNexis Academic.

[124] Al Hayat, “Pan-Arab Newspaper.”

[125] Ibid.

[126] Vicken Cheterian, “Libya’s Rebel Leader With a Past,” Le Monde Diplomatique, May 2012, pp. 6-7. Mr. Belhadj denied that he met with any Syrians or took money or weapons to Istanbul, but Reuters reported that 150 tons of weapons from Libya had been intercepted in Lebanon on their way to Syrian rebels. Ibid., p. 7.

[127] U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of State, Syria — Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #15, Fiscal Year 2014, May 22, 2014, p. 1. See also RIA Novosti, “Human Rights Activists Put Syrian Death Toll at 162,000 – Report,”, May 19, 2014, The pro-rebel SOHR draws its “information” from “a network of activists inside Syria,” leading the United Nations to question the information’s reliability. Barbara Surk, “Death Toll in Syria’s War Tops 160,000: Activists,” Associated Press, May 20, 2014,; Al Arabiya, “At Least 21 Killed in Shelling on Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in Syria: NGO,” Aug. 3, 2012, (subscription only: ALLNEWSPLUSWIRES database, or FIND function for “2012 WLNR 16308996”).

[128] Human Rights Watch, Turkey: Violations of Free Expression in Turkey (1999),

[129] James F. Dunnigan and Austin Bay, From Shield to Storm (New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1991), p. 342; Frank Hobbs, Chief, Populations Studies Branch, Center for International Research, Bureau of the Census, United States Department of Commerce, “Iraqi War Deaths,” reproduced in Saul Bloom et al. (Eds.), Hidden Casualties: Environmental, Health and Politcal Consequences of the Persian Gulf War (BerkelEy, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1994), pp. 189-191;

[130] Sami Moubayed, “Syria’s Suffocating Economic Reality,” Gulf News, March 27, 2012,

[131] The expert was Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense in the Bush administration, who studied the problem of unemployment iand insurgency in Iraq. Josh White and Griff Witte, “To Stem Iraqi Violence, U.S. Aims to Create Jobs,” The Washington Post, Dec. 12, 2006,

[132] Ibid.

[133] Cockburn, “Iraq Crisis.”

[134] Al-Hayat, “Pan-Arab Newspaper.”

[135] Cockburn, “Iraq Crisis.”

[136] Cf. Rohan Gunaratna, “Al-Qaeda Grows in Africa,” The National Interest, Mar. 23, 2012,

[137] Loveday Morris, “Syrian Armenians, Who Had Been Insulated from War, Forced to Flee After Rebel Offensive,” Washington Post, Apr. 2, 2014, reproduced in Congressional Record, vol. 160 (2014), p. E517.

[138] Condemning Kessab Attacks, Congressional Record, vol. 160 (2014), p. E489-03, 2014 WL 1315782.

[139] Kim Sengupta, “We Left Homs Because They Were Trying to Kill Us,” The Independent (U.K.), Nov. 2, 2012, p. 42.

[140] “Commending American Christian Leaders for Standing in Solidarity with Christians and Other Small Religious Communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria,” Congressional Record, vol. 160 (2014), p. E769-03, 2014 WL 2050391.

[141] Ibid.

[142] Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cyprus (Historical Overview) (2013),

[143] Letter from Il  ter Turkman, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations, Annex 1: Statement of the Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, U.N. Doc. No. A/41/177 (Feb. 24, 1986), pp. 2-3

[144] Jonny Dymond, “Turkey Accuses Israel of Genocide,” BBC News, Apr. 4, 2002,; Andrea Kannapell, “Front Lines,” The New York Times, Apr. 14, 2002, p. 4-2.

[145] Agence France Presse, “Turkish PM Erdogan Likens Xinjiang Violence to ‘Genocide’,” France24, July 10, 2009,; “China Demands Turkish Retraction,” BBC News, 14 July 2009, (accessed 9 Jul 2014).


Hannibal Travis

Hannibal Travis is Professor of Law at Florida International University College of Law. He is the author of the first comprehensive legal history of genocide in the Middle East and North Africa, entitled Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan (Carolina Academic Press, 2010). He has also contributed the chapters on the Assyrian genocide to four anthologies: Forgotten Genocides, Hidden Genocides, The Great Catastrophe, and Genocide in the Late Ottoman Empire and Early Turkish Republic. He has published many articles on freedom of expression, human rights in a variety of contexts, and telecommunications policy. His second book, entitled Genocide, Ethnonationalism, and the United Nations: Exploring the Causes of Mass Killing Since 1945 (Routledge, 2012), used the archives of the United Nations and decades of empirical research to attempt the first in-depth exploration of the causes of genocide and politicide based on primary-source materials and comparative mortality statistics.

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  1. Excellent discourse! What a brilliant analysis! No words cannot express the pure brilliance of this piece! Checkmate!

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Finally an authoritative voice out of all the confusion and false leads. Incredible. Credit to Travis. Credit to AW which has placed itself on the cutting edge of analysis of the Syrian catastrophe.

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