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World Disagrees on Possible US Intervention in Syria

  • Zlatica Hoke

The Obama administration is preparing a legal argument for undertaking a military response to the use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria. Public opinion about military action in Syria varies both in the United States and abroad.
While world leaders pondered Wednesday how best to respond to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons against its people, Syrian refugees in Jordan staged a demonstration in support of possible U.S. intervention.
"We've protested today to say to the free world and to [U.S. President Barack] Obama that the time has come," explained Ghareeb Shehada, a protest organizer. "The red line has been crossed by [Syrian President Bashar] Assad. It's time to send a strong message to Bashar and to destroy scud missiles and the chemical weapons, which have been used by criminals to kill honest civilians."
For some refugees in Jordan's Zaatari camp, one of the world's largest, an intervention after two years of death and destruction in their country is too little too late.
"The military strike is late, it should have taken place two years ago," complained Ibrahim Suleiman, a Syrian refugee in living Jordan, "and the ultimatums given by NATO, the Western and Arab nations, should have been given a long time ago. They are too late, our people have died, our people were slaughtered, children, women, even old men.''
While many Western leaders call for a military strike in Syria, some of their citizens are opposed to a costly military intervention at a time of economic austerity at home. A group of demonstrators gathered outside the prime minister's office in London after Britain sought U.N. backing for action against the Syrian government.
"But they are going to make it worse, they are going to ruin it, and they're going to make it like Iraq and we do not want it to happen there," opined Jihan, a protester in London. "We don't want Syria to be the same as Iraq."
Commentator Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe newspaper said the most recent public opinion polls show that 60 percent of Americans are opposed to any military role for the United States in Syria. He said the protracted war in Iraq is often given as the reason.
"In the wake of the Iraq war, where weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological, possibly nuclear weapons, were the rationale for the war, and it turned out that [former Iraqi leader] Saddam Hussein did not have them, I think that there's going to be a lot of skepticism in the United States, but also abroad," Bender said.
Bender added that if President Obama decides on a military strike in Syria he will have to convince the American public that it is necessary and also address the risks of expanding the U.S. role in the Syrian war.