Lehigh Valley protesters to U.S.: Stay out of Syria

Author: , Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published: Aug 31 2013 09:54:39 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 01 2013 07:55:27 AM EDT

Syrians across the nation, and in the Lehigh Valley, held rallies after President Obama announced possible military strikes against the divided nation.

 The message was loud and clear at a protest in Allentown Saturday night: the U.S. needs to stay out of Syria.

"The regime has been there for the past 40 years and we know the regime would not use such a thing against its own people," said Aziz Wehbey, president of the Syrian American Society in Catasauqua.

 The White House accuses Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of killing more than 1,400 innocent people with chemical attacks.  Saturday, President Obama said that the U.S. has solid intelligence that Assad is behind the attacks.

 "Our security and our values demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons," he said.

 Nationally, many Syrians support a military strike.

 "As supporters of the Syrian revolution, we want freedom," said Obahdah, an 18 year-old Syrian outside the White House.  "We want Bashar Assad to be overthrown, and we want the American government to help the Syrian people."

 But local Syrians, who mostly support Assad because he has tolerated Christianity, said U.S. intelligence has been wrong before.

 "We went to war in Iraq based on, 'I believe,' or, 'We believe there's chemical weapons in Iraq,' and it was a myth," Wehbey said.

Many in the crowd claimed rebel groups are launching the gas attacks to set Assad up.  Protesters Victor Hanna showed a YouTube video he believes shows rebels arming a warhead with chemical weapons.

"This video shows a bunch of rebels unloading a missile," he said.  "It's actually for deployment of chemical weapons."

The majority of Lehigh Valley Syrians are Christian, and they are concerned about what will happen if the Assad regime falls.  Some worry about a radical Islamic government taking over.

"A lot of innocent Christians will be slaughtered," said Hanna.  "That's our concern."

 But the President insisted, if Congress approves, this would be limited military action.

"What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?", he asked.

The question is: how high is that price and who pays?