Syria opposition thinks US will OK strike

Agence France-Presse
'We had a feeling of disappointment. We were expecting things to be quicker, that a strike would be imminent... But we believe Congress will approve a strike'

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Syria’s main opposition bloc said Sunday, September 1, it was disappointed with US President Barack Obama’s decision to seek approval from Congress for action against the regime, but said it believed lawmakers would OK a strike.

“We had a feeling of disappointment. We were expecting things to be quicker, that a strike would be imminent… But we believe Congress will approve a strike,” said Samir Nashar, a top official at the Syrian National Coalition.

To general surprise, Obama on Saturday, August 31, postponed threatened missile strikes against Syria that the world had thought were imminent, opting instead for the risky gamble of getting Congress approval.

This effectively pushes back any military action aimed at punishing the regime over an alleged deadly poison gas attack until at least September 9, when US lawmakers return from their summer recess.

Nashar said the coalition was confident that Arab foreign ministers who meet Sunday in Cairo would give “very strong support” to US-led military action.

“The Turkish position is also very important. Washington needs this support,” the Istanbul-based official said.

“The coalition will get in touch with Arab countries and Turkey so that they cooperate as much as possible with the United States,” he said.

“We will try to push these countries to take part in the military operation, which will greatly alleviate the suffering of Syrians.”

He said intelligence that would be shown to members of Congress contained proof that the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was behind the alleged attack on August 21.

“They will understand that the context is completely different than that of Iraq.”

Another coalition member, who declined to be named, was fatalistic.

“He who waits two-years-and-a-half can wait another 10 days,” he said.

“But if Congress refuses (a strike), Bashar will change into a regional monster producing chemical weapons and missiles. It would be a disaster for the Syrian people, the region and the world.”

The United States and other Western and Arab countries blame the alleged gas attack on the Assad regime, which itself strenuously denies any responsibility.

Washington says that based on its intelligence, more than 1,400 people were killed in the gruesome incident.

Analysts say the delay in any military strike is a “respite” for Assad, adding that all eyes will now be on Obama and his attempts at garnering support.

“People will turn away from what is happening on the ground in Syria,” said Agnes Levallois, a French Middle East expert.

Assad “has 10 or so days during which he will be able to show that he is taking back control,” she said. –

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