Syrians living in Connecticut say they are appalled by the use of chemical weapons on civilians in Syria, but they disagree over whether the United States should launch an air strike on their homeland.
Some support President Obama’s call for a limited air strike, saying it would serve as a deterrent and not lead to another protracted war in the Middle East. But others oppose a strike, saying it won’t work unless it destroys all the chemical weapons, and Syrian President Bashar Assad steps down. Some question whether the Assad regime really is behind the chemical attack, which killed hundreds of civilians Aug. 21.
The situation, which is rapidly changing with Russia’s proposal Monday that Syria put its chemical weapons under international control, has Syrians in the state watching closely.
Adib Chouiki, of West Haven, who moved to the United States in 1988, supports U.S. military intervention and has been writing and calling his senators to urge them to vote yes on the strike.
“The Syrian people are not asking for boots on the ground. All we’re asking for is an air campaign where we destroy his command center and airfield,” Chouiki said. “Then we will destroy his ability to kill his people and his chemical campaign.”
The United States not only has a moral obligation to take a stand against the use of chemical weapons, but also needs to stand behind its word or it will be seen as weak, Chouiki said.
“Otherwise we are going to be a joke to whole world,” he said.
Talal Trabulsi, of Wallingford, a Sunni who moved to the United States in 1997, called Assad the “biggest terrorist in the Middle East.”
“This is not only to protect the Syrian people. It’s to protect the world against him using chemical weapons” against other countries, such as Jordan and Israel, he said.
“He is not afraid of anyone,” Trabulsi said. “If they don’t stop him now, they will never stop him.”
But Najib George Awad, an associate professor of Christian theology at Hartford Seminary, questions the purpose of a strike and warned of its ramifications.
“Would the strike guarantee that the Assad regime would never use chemical weapons against the Syrians?” he said.
“We are wagering too much on a risky thing that would lead Assad to more violent action against the strike by using more chemical weapons,” he said.
Awad said he favors postponing a strike to buy some time for political negotiations.
He said there had been talk of a Geneva II convention that would bring the opposition and the regime to the table and negotiate a possible exit from the bloodshed, he said. The idea would be to put in place a transitional government to bring back stability and stop the civil war. But the regime has continued fighting and that solution seems unlikely now, he said.
“We shouldn’t allow the regime to use chemical weapons again by being lenient,” he said. Instead he proposes a diplomatic approach such as pressuring Iran and Russia to help negotiate and ask Assad to step down.
“There is not any benefit from the continuation of war. We really need to end that and start maybe finding a more peaceful solution because it will be good for every country in the region,” Awad said.
Sossi Derian, of West Hartford, a Christian who left Syria to come to the United States in the 1960s, opposes the air strike. She is not convinced that the Assad regime really is to blame for the chemical attacks and would like to see evidence.
She and her family remember a safe and comfortable European-type lifestyle in Syria as Armenian refugees under Assad’s father’s regime.
Derian, a member of the West Hartford Citizens for Peace and Justice group, said she thinks the rebels are being supplied by Al-Qaeda and Turkey and worries that the strikes could lead to a protracted conflict.
“We’ve got to learn a better way than attacking, attacking, attacking,” Derian said.