DALLAS, August 27, 2013 – As the U.S. marches toward war with Syria, thousands of Assad-sympathizers bombarded President Obama’s Facebook page with threats of retaliation.
Comments from seemingly original profiles represented Syrians from the cities of Homs, Tartus, Damascus and Aleppo and more. Warnings of counter-attacks on U.S. soil and against Israel were not confined to one photograph or post, but the most disturbing were observed on today’s picture honoring Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
This comment was pasted 356 times at last check in both English and Arabic:
“We will burn the cities of the United States if it attacked Syria, and will remove Israel from the map.” Others referenced burning America’s skies and called for immediate jihad retaliation should America strike “another Muslim land”.
The second most common remarks were also in English or Arabic and translated by Facebook:
“To the American people: Have you ever asked yourselves why your flag is burning all over the world by protesters? We always distinguish between the American regime and the American people…but if the American people remain silent they will be murders as their government. Wake-up Americans and stand for humanity.”
One poster, Al-Assad Buttar, wrote and then apparently deleted this comment, “You will attack my people based on still unconfirmed reports? The rebels have all the advantage in claiming this happened while killing children themselves. U.S. has been arming and fighting Al Qaeda so long and you cannot see this because you want war and nothing will stop your blood thirst. Bomb one more country and we will rain fire from the sky.”
Anti-Assad Internet activists claim these comments were likely organized by “cyber-thugs” working for the regime. The battlefield of the civil war has taken place before on Twitter and Facebook. During the 2011 uprising, social media feeds documented egregious government abuses and organized protests, allowing revolutionaries to circumvent Assad’s censors.
Should Americans be worried? Analysts familiar with the tangled web of Middle Eastern politics warned repeatedly that a strike would likely net a wave of terrorism directed at the U.S. and Israel. Even if Internet activists do not take action beyond social media, Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia, supports Syrian President Bashar Assad and could retaliate swiftly against Israel.
Analysts are concerned because an attack on Syria could motivate terrorist cells currently dormant, or those that want Al Qaeda-backed rebels to win Syria’s future over the western-backed factions. Power struggles within the insurgency between the two groups threatens U.S.-led opposition to Assad.
Pending the results of the UN inspectors’ results, the White House claims there is “no doubt” that President Assad attacked the opposition. But a national security analyst speaking anonymously warned, “The U.S. should let the UN conclude their investigation before posturing for war. The rebels have used chemical attacks before to gain western sympathy and aid. An investigation could likely lead to interesting results and pre-emptive attacks could once again discredit the U.S.”
Last May, after reports that chemical agents were used by Assad, United Nations investigators concluded that rebel forces dispersed the deadly weapons. Assad gained no decisive tactical advantage from the use of weaponized gases, but with the crossing of the “red line”, the U.S.-supported rebel faction has action from Washington instead of empty promises of support.
In response to Washington’s move, a Syrian National Coalition official said in Beirut that the group expects a Western military intervention and has been consulted over targets.
“It’s a question of days and not weeks,” said Ahmad Ramadan, adding that “there have been meetings between the Coalition, the (rebel) Free Syrian Army and allied countries during which possible targets have been discussed.”
According to the White House, the limited Syrian bombing campaign would reportedly only target military sites. The strategy of this bombing effort has yet to be defined. Despite warnings from General Martin Dempsey that Syrians aren’t ready to take power or back American interests, the U.S. is moving aggressively toward war.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem responded that Damascus would defend itself by all means at their disposal. Russia and Iran both joined Syria in warning disastrous consequences would face the U.S. if an attack on their ally launched.
“Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa.”
An attack could take place as early as Thursday.
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