Commentary

What Commentators Are Saying About Strikes on Syria

Middle East In Focus

Middle East Policy Council

While Congress debates the legal and moral grounds of a punitive U.S. strike against the Assad regime, Syria’s neighbors have been busy making their views known on the desirability of such strikes. A few of them, like Turkey and some Gulf countries, have been calling for strikes for some time, and believe that the only way to end the conflict in Syria is to do away with the Assad regime. Meanwhile, others have argued for a more cautious approach and have gone so far as to threaten retaliatory strikes should the U.S. push for regime change.

Support for possible U.S. strikes against Assad’s regime have come primarily from the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia. According to a Gulf News article by Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, “Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states have been urging the international community to be more decisive. They will firmly support any American action in Syria and do not mind being part of any ‘coalition of the willing’ to finish Al Assad. The rest of the Arab world is too weak to get involved in any meaningful way. America may not get the loud cheers from the Arab public, but if there are no civilian casualties many will pretend it did not take place and will soon forget all about it. The case for action cannot be any clearer.”

Other countries have taken an even more aggressive approach by lobbying the U.S. for action that goes beyond even what Washington would be comfortable with. For example, Hurriyet Daily News’ (Turkey) Cihan Celik argues that Turkey’s leaders are so eager to go after Assad that it has turned the Ankara into an ‘unwanted ally’: “Turkey’s hopes for a ‘new Syria’ have been dashed after the schizophrenic statements that the U.S. and its European allies are not after a regime change in Syria, despite their frequent calls on al-Assad to step aside over the last two years. That was also a wake-up call for Ankara that its strategy for Syria is no longer viable and that its offer for military help is not welcomed for now, as the West’s doors are not entirely closed to a diplomatic solution.”

Israeli lobbying groups, on the other hand, have been vocal about the need for a U.S.-led strike against Syria: “The influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee offered its support Tuesday for President Barack Obama's plan to attack Syria. ‘AIPAC urges Congress to grant the president the authority he has requested to protect America’s national security interests and dissuade the Syrian regime's further use of unconventional weapons,’ the American-Israeli lobbying group said in a statement....The Anti-Defamation League, another pro-Israel group, also announced its support Tuesday for Obama's plan to hit Syria. ‘The president has made a decision to use military force against Syria because of their use of chemical weapons. I don’t know what there is to debate about,’ Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, told The Hill....The liberal-leaning J Street, another pro-Israel lobbying group, hasn't announced its position on a Syria attack.”

Of Course, not everyone feels comfortable with more U.S. involvement in the region. The Lebanese political spectrum appears divided on the utility of such strikes as well as whether they are appropriate at all. Cataloging the views of the different political actors in the country, the Daily Star’s (Lebanon) Wassim Mroueh notes “Lebanese politicians said over the weekend that a potential U.S. strike against Syria should not be exploited for local political gain, while others called on Hezbollah to refrain from retaliatory acts against Israel....Akkar MP Nidal Tohme, from the Future parliamentary bloc, said retaliation by Hezbollah against Israel would destroy Lebanon. He questioned the ability of the Lebanese to endure another war....Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said that he opposed military action against Syria. ‘We are against any foreign military intervention in Syria and against the use of weapons and resorting to war because this will only lead to destruction.’”

Hezbollah, on the other hand, has made it amply clear that they will not stand by idly as the U.S. attacks Syria: “A massive military strike by the United States and its Western allies on Syria aimed at changing the balance of power in the country will likely trigger a swift intervention by Hezbollah, political analysts and sources close to the group said Tuesday. Hezbollah’s response will likely involve the firing of rockets into Israel, igniting the dormant front in south Lebanon.”

For the Palestinians, the matters are equally complicated by the ties between Hamas and the Syrian regime. However, the ambivalence or outright opposition to a possible U.S. strike against Syria goes beyond Hamas, including Mr. Abbas’ Fatah: “The possible American strike in Syria has divided Hamas' political and military wings, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has avoided making any comment on the issue altogether. According to Kuwait newspaper Al-Anba, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, has decided to support Syrian President Bashar Assad regardless of how things play out....A few days ago Palestinian factions affiliated with Fatah held a conference in Ramallah, after which they expressed their opposition to any military intervention in Syria, claiming it would have a negative effect on the entire region.”

Finally, there are those countries, including Iran and Iraq, for whom an American-led attack against Assad’s regime would be completely unacceptable under any circumstances. The Iraqi daily Aswat Al-Iraq recently reported about demonstrations in the city of Najaf where demonstrators rallies in support of the Assad regime and against U.S. intervention in Syria: “Najaf city witnessed today thousands of pro-Sadrist Trend demonstrating against US preparations to attack Syria. Participants in the demonstration rejected ‘all forms of interventions in the region’, reminding ‘Iraq disasters after US invasion and international interventions in Afghanistan.’”

Meanwhile, according to the Iranian daily Tehran Times: “One hundred and seventy members of the Iranian parliament issued a statement on Wednesday, announcing support for ‘Syrian brothers,’ saying they would make every effort to fight against injustice....The MPs said, ‘alongside Syrian brothers, we are ready to sacrifice our lives in the fight against paganism and oppression and we announce’ to the U.S. and ‘its lackeys in the Zionist regime that it is for long years that the oppressed people of the world have been waiting for a final moment’ to end oppression by the arrogant powers. They added, ‘Your attack on Syria would be the beginning of your downfall.’”


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