Local reaction to U.S.-Syria tensions

August 27, 2013 8:26:56 PM PDT
Thousands of Syrian Americans and nationals call the Chicago area home. Many have relatives in the war-torn country and say U.S. military involvement is long overdue.

An anti-war rally was planned for Tuesday night in the Chicago Loop. Anti-war activists in Chicago hope Americans remember the Iraq war began with "unfounded" claims about chemical weapons stockpiles.

"The United States cannot play a positive role in that country and certainly not with any military action," said Joe Iosbaker, Anti-War Committee of Chicago.

Mohammed Alzoubi chats on-line with his brother whose small Syrian village is under fire from government tanks. He says his brother has a message for Americans.

"They are waiting for the help and they've been waiting for the help for the last two years at least," said Mohammed Alzoubi.

Word of a possible U.S. military strike in Syria is welcome news to Abdullah Haj-Darwish of Oakbrook.

"The Syrian people have been waiting for this action for the past two and a half years," said Haj-Darwish, who has family in northern Syria.

Control of his war-torn hometown of Ariha has traded hands multiple times between rebel forces and those controlled by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, who the U.S. now accuses of using poison gas to kill hundreds.

"It's going to be a good warning for him to stop from continuing to do his criminal actions in Syria against his own people," Haj-Darwish said.

President Barack Obama spent much of Monday on the phone shoring up support from international partners, including the Arab League and European allies, a move seen as vital for action to be taken against a sovereign country.

"They're unlikely to get the U.N. to approve this because Russia is opposed, so they want to get as many countries as they can in favor because they realize they'll be doing something that's dicey under international law," said Prof. Ian Hurd, Northwestern University.

The White House says any military action would be limited - no troops on the ground, no attempt to topple the Assad regime.

"It wants the Assad government to fall, but I think the Obama administration is realistic that American forces are not going to accomplish that goal," Hurd said.

Syrian TV accuses the U.S. of fabricating evidence of the alleged chemical attack. John Beacham of the anti-war group The Answer Coalition questions whether the U.S. government is motivated by more than humanitarian concerns.

"They're intervening at a time when it looks like the Assad government might win. And that's what they don't want. And they don't anybody who is independent of their interests in the region to come out ahead," said Beacham.

The Answer Coalition, Occupy Chicago and other groups are planning to hold multiple demonstrations this week in Chicago, including a protest at Federal Plaza on the same day of any U.S. attack.


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