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Middle Easterners weigh in on U.S. involvement in Syria

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Sep 10 2013 11:21:20 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

President Barack Obama updated the nation on the role of the United States in Syria. The president spoke from the White House Tuesday evening, trying to build support for a military intervention and he also gave the latest on diplomatic efforts.

The president says he has asked Congress to postpone a vote on limited military strikes, as his administration pursues a Russian proposal to have Syria turn over its chemical weapons to the international community.

He says the U.S. military will also remain in a position to respond should diplomacy fail and he stresses the importance of having the backing of Congress.  

"Even though I possess the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right, in the absence of a direct or immediate threat to our security, to take this debate to congress,” said Obama.  “I believe our democracy is stronger when the president acts with the support of congress and I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together."

"We can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That's what makes America different,” he said.

NBC Montana wanted to hear insight from people from the region in conflict.  Tuesday afternoon we went to the International House in Missoula and talked to three people from Turkey and one from Iraq.  They wouldn't go on camera out of fear for their safety but they explained to us that they are worried about what the United States' involvement in Syria would mean for the people living in the region.

Two of the people we spoke with from Turkey are doing research in Montana and will return home in several weeks.  They say there are over 500,000 refugees in Turkey and they're worried U.S. military action will send more Syrian refugees flooding into their country.

A woman from Iraq tells NBC Montana she does not believe Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons, and instead she believes terrorist groups in the region are behind the attacks.

Overall, all four people we talked with believe military strikes in Syria would do nothing more than cause problems in the region.

After the President’s speech Tuesday evening we spoke with Missoula resident Susan Rinehart, who is pen pals with a 15-year-old from Syria.  She wouldn't share his name for his safety but she read some of the messages he has written her over the past several weeks.

“He said that it was good in his neighborhood right now but there are some places that are facing hell on earth in Syria and he said that it's going to be a complete war zone,” Rinehart read out loud.  

“'I mean we already don't have water and the power is available for only 18 hours out of 24 hours,” he wrote.

“He says he realizes that they need a solution and he said a week ago the government bombed a small part of a town with bio weapons and he wasn't sure what town it was but he knew that there were about 2,000 people dead and the poison gas made others sick and those people all need serious medical treatment,” she read to us.  

“He also told me yesterday they killed the mayor of his town, that they blew up his car and all of his escorts and he said that all he really wants to do is study amidst all of this stuff that's going on because he really needs high marks if he wants to go and study in college in another country like the U.S.,” Rinehart said.

In one of the last messages the Syrian teen wrote to Rinehart, he said he fears strikes against Syria would kill innocent people and lead to even more Syrians having to leave their country.  The teen says he hopes there will be a diplomatic solution soon.