Syria crisis: Americans oppose Obama`s plan; Assad threatens to strike back

Survey shows Barack Obama swimming against public opinion from war-weary Americans, even as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned of possible reprisal attacks if United States uses military force.

Zee Media Bureau

Washington: National survey released on Monday shows President Barack Obama swimming against a strong tide of public opinion from war-weary Americans, even as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned of possible reprisal attacks if the United States uses military force in the country.

US nationals opposed the US getting involved in Syria`s civil war as Obama sought Congressional backing for a military strike on Syria on Monday.
Though eight in ten Americans believed that Bashar al- Assad`s regime gassed its own people, the CNN/ORC International poll shows that a strong majority does not want Congress to pass a resolution authorising a military strike against Syria.

More than seven in 10 say such a strike would not achieve significant goals for the US and a similar amount say it`s not in the national interest for the US to get involved in Syria`s bloody two-year-long civil war.

The poll comes at the start of a pivotal week for the president. The Senate is expected to take up the resolution after returning from its month-long summer recess today and Obama does a round of interviews with the major broadcast and cable news outlets.

Amid a full-court press of briefings by White House officials, Obama will travel to Capitol Hill tomorrow to make his case with lawmakers hours before he tries to make his case to the nation in a prime-time address.

"Congressional approval would help Obama a little, but a majority would still oppose air strikes against military targets in Syria," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.

"If Congress authorises military action, 55 per cent of Americans would still oppose air strikes."

Fifty-nine per cent of people questioned say they don`t think Congress should pass a resolution that would authorise military action against Syria for a 60- to 90-day period and bar the use of US ground troops, while about four in 10 approve of such a resolution.

The poll also suggests those surveyed who identified themselves as Democrats and Republicans don`t see eye to eye on the resolution. Fifty-six per cent of Democrats think Congress should pass it, but only 36 per cent of Republicans and 29 per cent of independents say the same.

"Bringing Congress into the equation seems to have added a political dimension to the Syria debate," Holland said.

"Once Congress makes up its mind, however, the gap between Democrats and Republicans nearly vanishes."

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International on September 6-8, with 1,022 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey`s overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

US should `expect everything` in response to any Syria strikes: Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned of possible reprisal attacks if the United States uses military force against Syria, saying that if there were strikes, Americans could "expect every action."

Assad, in an interview with CBS television that aired on Monday, denied involvement in a suspected chemical weapons attack near Damascus on August 21.

The United States says more than 1,400 people were killed in the attack, which it blames on Assad`s forces. President Barack Obama has threatened military strikes against Syria as punishment.

Assad, who has accused the rebels of the poison gas attack, said that if there were U.S. strikes on Syria, the United States "should expect everything."

Repercussions "may take different forms," including "direct and indirect" effects, Assad told CBS in the interview, which was conducted in Damascus.

Indirect impacts could include "instability and the spread of terrorism all over the region that will influence the West directly," Assad said.

He said there could be repercussions against the United States from other countries or groups such as Iran or Lebanon`s Hezbollah.

His comments come as Obama prepares to press his case for military action before the American public and U.S. lawmakers this week. Obama has asked the U.S. Congress to authorize a military strike, and votes could come as early as this week.

In the meantime, Assad said: "We have to expect the worst."

Assad repeatedly rejected the idea that there is any evidence linking his government to the August 21 attack, and he blasted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry`s efforts to round up international support for military strikes.

He also told CBS the Syrian government opposes the use of chemical weapons. "We are against any WMD, any weapons of mass destruction whether chemical or nuclear." Asked if he considers chemical warfare equivalent to nuclear warfare, Assad said: "I don`t know. We haven`t tried either."

To Obama, Assad said: "I will tell him very simply, "Present what you have as evidence ... to the public. Be transparent."

Kerry dismissed Assad`s denial of involvement in the attack.

"We know that his regime gave orders to prepare for a chemical attack," Kerry said at a news conference in London, one of several European stops in recent days to make the U.S. case for military action.

Assad said that any U.S. strikes would boost the al Qaeda offshoot in his country: "It`s going to be direct support."

"It`s area where everything is on the brink of explosion. You have to expect everything," Assad said.

With Agency inputs