Middle East

As war rhetoric increases, public unconvinced

File - USS Stout (DDG 55), a guided-missile destroyer, pulls alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington in preparation for a strike group photo exercise, July 20, 2005. (AFP PHOTO/NAVAL VISUAL NEWS SERVICES)

BEIRUT: As allied military action against Syria seemed increasingly inevitable Thursday, with the U.S. and the U.K. readying resources in the Mediterranean, public opposition to intervention appeared to be growing.

A YouGov poll published Thursday showed that 51 percent of the British public was opposed to a missile strike on Syria, with only 33 percent in favor.

This war-weariness was echoed across the Atlantic, with only 25 percent of Americans in favor of intervention and 41 percent opposed, according to a a HuffPost/YouGov poll published a day earlier. A further 34 percent were undecided.

This sentiment was also reflected in the media, with the British Guardian demanding more answers.

“After eight Western interventions in Arab or Muslim countries in 15 years, skeptical generals and a hostile Western public at large are entitled to answers,” an editorial said.

It also argued that any attacking Damascus with cruise missiles would only exacerbate the situation on the ground: “Waves of cruise missiles could soon be heading toward Syria to feed a fire that is already well lit.”

Similarly in the U.S., an editorial in the New York Times criticized President Barack Obama for a thus-far unconvincing argument for intervention.

“Any action, military or otherwise, must be tailored to advance a political settlement between the Assad regime and the opposition, the only rational solution to the conflict. If military action has a broader strategic purpose and is part of a coherent diplomatic plan, Mr. Obama needs to explain it.”

In Germany, a poll found that the majority of people oppose Western military intervention in Syria and do not want their country to provide backing for any U.S.-led strike.

Thursday’s poll for ZDF television found 58 percent oppose intervention following last week’s suspected poison gas attacks, with 33 percent in favor and 9 percent undecided.On the international stage, Canada said it was reluctantly supporting military intervention, but would not join in the attack.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday that “at the present time the government of Canada has no plans ... to have a Canadian military mission.”

“Our government has been a very reluctant convert to the idea that there needs to be some Western military action regarding the Syrian situation,” he added.

In the Vatican Pope Francis and King Abdullah II of Jordan agreed that dialogue was the “only option” to end the conflict in Syria. Abdullah flew to Rome specifically to meet the pope to discuss the Middle East crisis.

The king and the pontiff “reaffirmed that the path of dialogue and negotiations among all components of Syrian society, with the backing of the international community, is the only option to end the conflict and the violence that each day cause the loss of so many human lives, most of all among the defenseless population,” the Vatican said in a statement.

South Africa also said that it was against airstrikes on Damascus.

“We are concerned by the rhetoric pointing to the possibility of a military intervention,” South African President Jacob Zuma said, while condemning “the chemical weapons attack” in Damascus.

“South Africa does not believe that bombing the already suffering people and crumbling infrastructure of Syria will contribute to a sustainable solution.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 30, 2013, on page 1.




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