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Local Syrians react to President Obama's speech

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 10 2013 09:05:51 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 11 2013 05:02:00 AM CDT

Local Syrians react to President's speech

CATASAUQUA, Pa. -

"Show us the proof." That's what some Lehigh Valley Syrians said after President Obama laid out his case for military strikes against Syria Tuesday night.

The Lehigh Valley is home to at least 15,000 Syrians, most of whom are Christians who support the Assad regime.

Around 35 of them gathered at the Syrian American Society in Catasauqua. Most hoped to hear talk of a diplomatic solution.

"We're hoping to hear tonight the cooperation with the Russians about the chemical weapons and the solution of the WMD," said society president Aziz Wehbey.

"Hopefully, he will go with the international community and say, 'No, we're going to solve this amicably,'" added Pastor Moufie Khoury of Allentown's First Presbyterian Church.

Most in the group acknowledged that chemical attacks have happened in their homeland, but they blame rebels fighting Assad.

"These things happened; the facts cannot be denied," said President Barack Obama. "The question now is, what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it?"

Obama said he will wait for U.N. inspectors to issue a report on who they believe is responsible for the gas attacks. He will also wait to see if Assad gives up control of his chemical arsenal, as the regime has reportedly promised Russia.

"I believe the Syrian government will cooperate," said Weybey.

The President also insisted he is not looking to remove Assad, something many Syrians here fear because his regime has tolerated Christians.

"I don't think the United States wants to remove another dictator by force," the President said. "We learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next."

Tuesday night, Mr. Obama said U.S. intelligence shows Assad's Army arming and launching sarin gas rockets toward 11 rebel strongholds, but he did not offer concrete evidence.

"He said that chemical weapons were used, but there is no proof who used them," said Khoury. "The international community is saying, 'No, it wasn't Assad; it was the rebels.' Give us proof."