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Syrians Wary, Resigned Over Possible US Strike

  • Elizabeth Arrott

Residents watch as a convoy of U.N. vehicles carrying a team of United Nations chemical weapons experts drive past near one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Zamalka, a suburb of Damascus on August 28, 2013.

Residents watch as a convoy of U.N. vehicles carrying a team of United Nations chemical weapons experts drive past near one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Zamalka, a suburb of Damascus on August 28, 2013.

As U.S. lawmakers consider whether to use military force against Syria for alleged use of chemical weapons, some in Damascus are banding together for any eventuality.

The delay on a U.S. decision has provided some in Damascus with a sense of relief, either giving hope Washington will back down on its threat of a strike or giving time to better prepare for one.

Secretary General Sana Naser, of the New Syria Party, a government-approved opposition group, says U.S. President Barack Obama “shirked” his responsibility by handing the decision to Congress.

Not that it matters, she added, as she believes lawmakers will approve military action, especially now that the United States has put so many resources into position. Tuesday's joint U.S.-Israeli missile test over the Mediterranean is only likely to strengthen such opinions. But Naser refuses to call possible U.S. action against Syria a “strike.”

Speaking by phone from Damascus, she described it as an aggression against a sovereign state, by one U.N. member against another. And as such, she said, it would be a violation of international law.

Anas Aljazayri, a member of the Syrian Observatory for the Victims of Violence and Terrorism, which largely reflects government positions, disagrees. He thinks Obama realizes war with Syria “is not a picnic.”

"We are not afraid and we are not worried and we are too confident there is no hit on Syria," Aljazayri said.

But if it does happen, he argues the Syrian government and military are ready. He pointed out they have been preparing not just during the past two and half years of internal conflict, when the United States and other Western leaders called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Aljazayri said there have been 30 years of expectation, beginning with tensions between the West and Mr. Assad's father, the late President Hafez al-Assad.

AlJazayri is also dismissive of the Arab League and its decision this week to support U.N. action against Syria. He said the League has never stood by the the side of Arab interests, and has been “conspiring” against Syria since the beginning of the uprising against Assad. The League suspended Damascus in 2011.

Anti-American, pro-government views are not hard to find in Damascus. Decades of censorship has led to a general conformity of publicly-expressed opinion.

Some in the rebel camp hope the current delay on any strike will give them more time to convince silent opponents of Assad to come to their side.

The New Syria Party's Sana Naser does speak out against the government in cases of corruption or abuse, and unwarranted arrests of citizens, in particular during the threat of conflict. But she said this does not mean she and others will stand by idly if the country is subjected to an external attack.

Naser said a new national defense group to protect against an attack has been formed, and adds she was one of the first women to volunteer.

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