TROUBLE FOR THE LEVANT
With Russia Out, Christian Races Will Be In Great Danger.
To the Editor of The New York Times.
If the present negotiations between the Bolsheviki and the Central Powers to make peace on the basis of 'no indemnities and no annexations", are successful, what will be the effect on the "Eastern question"- the treatment of the non-Moslems, by Moslem Governments-and under whose control will those countries pass in the immediate future?
Suppose that the Russians withdrew their troops from Turkey. The occupied territory would at once revert to the Turks again. There is no such place as "Armenia" inhabited exclusively by the Armenians. In none of the six "Armenian vilayets" bordering on Russia and Persia would the Armenians be in the majority. So even the farce of a self-determination by the Christians could not be attempted. Further, the conditions would be worse than before the war, due to bitter enmity engendered by the war, enormous loss of man power, ruined homes and business, and a Turkish Armenia resubjugated.
Turning to the Assyrians, (Nestorian Syrians,) &c., living on the Persian-Turkish borderland, the situation is even more disheartening. The bulk of the independent "tribes" of Mar Shimun, their chief, after fierce struggles for existence, fled to northern Persia. Whatever is left of them now are in Persia, a burden on the land and on themselves, with no prospect of self-support during the war, impoverished beyond description, decimated; but still their men are at the forefront of the Russians leading toward Mosul to make a junction with the English forces in Mesopotamian. Now it is proposed by the Germans that both Russians and Turks- (the latter for the sake of appearance) withdraw from Persia and leave the country to decide its own destiny, unmolested from outside interference. On the surface a very unselfish motive indeed. But what does it mean? In the first place, as touching the temporary welfare of the Mountain Assyrians, they would be driven out of Persia. The Persian do not want them in their country. They have shown no pity to their own fellow Moslems in deep distress, whom the American Red Cross is keeping alive, much less to those deported (rather imported) Christians. The Christians are kept where they are by the Russian army, to whom they owe their existence. The Kurs is now hungry and meek, but as soon as he is fed he will be a wolf again (and "Kurd" means "wolf.") These Christians cannot return to their former homes, in absolute ruin, under their present condition. Their doom is certain.
But the evacuation of Persia by Russia has a far larger significance. Russia is weak. Russia will remain weak for years to come. She will be busied with internal matters for years. She May even be broken up into smaller governments. She will have ceased to be the terror-inspiring neighbor to Turkey and Persia, and she will not be able to finance Persia to the extent she has done in the past. But Persia also is weak and cannot finance herself. She has no money, no enterprise, and no resources. The attempt at a revolution has not brought the unification desired - the country did not seem ready for such changes as yet. So Persia must be financed and guided, from outside, for many years to come. Who will replace Russia in the council of Persia? The great anxiety of Potsdam, for Persia is not on humanitarian principles for poor benighted Persia. It is only another name for a clean sweep for a Middle Europe, with its ramifications reaching from the Baltic to the Black and Caspian seas, to include, among others at the Bagdad end of the plan, Persia, Turkey, and Arabia:
Representative Patriarch Assyrian People.
New York, Jan. 13, 1918.