Syrian couple, experts make case for treading lightly in Syria

Ohio experts and an area Syrian couple and are not in favor of military action by the United States in Syria and say the 2½-year uprising against the Bashar al-Assad regime is a tangled web of ethnic, religious and political factors.

Dr. George Hudson, a professor at Ohio State, said intervention appears likely, but that by having to make a decision, Obama is “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

“Like everything in international politics, especially in the Middle East, it’s incredibly complex,” said Hudson, who taught political science at Wittenberg for 40 years. “There’s not only tribal antagonisms going on in the area, but even it involves the countries outside of Syria.

“One of those is Iran. It’s feared that if (the U.S.) doesn’t at least punish Assad for using chemical weapons that this would appear to give a freer reign to Iran to go ahead and pursue its nuclear ambitions without fear of being punished for it.”

University of Dayton director of human rights studies professor Mark Ensalaco said U.S. President Barack Obama faces political pressure from inside and outside his party about a response to alleged chemical weapons use by Assad’s forces.

“I’ve tried in my remarks on this to distinguish retaliation for what would be a grave breach of international humanitarian law that prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons and (from) military intervention in the Syrian conflict,” Ensalaco said. “It may be very hard to distinguish. That’s the danger we need to avoid.”

Steve Sosebee is President and CEO of the Kent, Ohio-based Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund, a non-political, non-religious, non-profit established in 1991 to address the medical and humanitarian crisis facing Palestinian youths in the Middle East. His group has helped Syrian children by bringing them to Cincinnati for surgery, including a couple of children wounded from fighting.

Sosebee, who lives in the West Bank area of Palestine for much of the year, said that while the goal of condemning use of chemical weapons is admirable, the reality is nowhere near as clear as that.

“If you put away all the politics and those aspects to the side, it’s just the reality that the majority of people live in urban areas, densely-populated areas where high-ordnance weapons are being used, you’re going to have a huge number of civilian casualties, regardless of whether you feel you could do surgically-pinpointed attacks or not,” Sosebee said.

“We are torn apart between being here and loving this country, really loving it,” said Beth Salama, a pharmacist who lives in Centerville. “As much as I love Syria, I love being here.”

Salama has four American-born daughters with her husband, Dr. Ibrahim Ahmad, who is President of the National Arab American Medical Association’s Dayton chapter and a clinical assistant professor at Wright State.

“I have three sisters (in Syria) and it’s so sad to see what’s happening,” Salama said. “We always brought the good view of the kind American people. And now they feel like the United States is attacking them. That’s how they feel. It’s hard to explain to them. Any interference is going to be (seen as) just to support the terrorists there.”

Ahmad is against any military intervention.

Ahmad, who was just in Syria in July taking his mother back to her village, said the good-intentioned anti-Assad revolutionists have been joined — and in some cases taken over by — a mix of Chechen soldiers and people from Afghanistan with possible Al-Qaeda ties.

“They are anything but freedom and democracy fighter … The United States should actually help the Syrians now get rid of those Al-Qaeda and those extremists right now,” Ahmad said.”And then maybe at that point they should sit and have good dialogue.”

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