U.S. Strikes In Syria Draw Mixed Reactions In The Middle East
Written by Malek   

The U.S. airstrikes on a Syrian regime air base Thursday night have yielded widespread praise from America’s Western allies, but reaction in the Middle East has been mixed, with both condemnation of the attack and approval from the major players. President Donald Trump approved the strike as a response to a chemical attack in Idlib province by the Syrian government against civilians. Turkey’s health ministry confirmed that the attack used sarin gas, a nerve agent that was banned in the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. The Pentagon is investigating the extent of Russia’s role in the attack, according to CNN. America’s escalated role in the Syrian crisis will directly affect members of the Arab world, and the stakes are high. Many countries there are deeply invested in working to resolve Syria’s six-year war, from funding and arming different parties to sheltering displaced refugees. Here’s how leaders and civilians in several Arab nations have responded to the strikes.

Lebanon In Lebanon, there has been a wide spectrum of reactions. The country is currently hosting more than 1.5 million refugees from Syria ― a group about one-third the size of Lebanon’s own population. A report from The Daily Star, an English-language newspaper based in Beirut, shows a few different responses from displaced Syrians there. Abudulkareem Raslan lives in a village near Sidon, a city in the southern region. “The American attack was an act of aggression against an Arab country that refuses to be under American tutelage,” Raslan told The Daily Star. “All [200] of us in this camp are with the Syrian regime.” “God curse everyone who took up arms and fought us. Why did Trump order to attack us?” he asked. Others, who are opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, feel excited at the prospect of American intervention in Syria. “Let the American warplanes attack the regime forces, and send Bashar [Assad] to hell,” said Abu Hafez, a refugee who lives south of Beirut in Ouzai.

Lebanese politicians, who are much more skeptical of the situation, offered little praise for the airstrikes. Samir Jisr, a member of Lebanon’s Parliament, had harsh words for the strikes and blamed Russia for the escalation, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency. “Americans and Europeans intervene indirectly and disregard crimes committed by the regime,” Jisr said. “They pretend that they are combating terrorism while they created it and are paying the price.” Lebanese President Michel Aoun responded by condemning the use of weapons of mass destruction during a meeting with the World Health Organization’s Middle East region director on Friday, according to NNA. Aoun took the opportunity to urge international leaders to push Israel to sign treaties restricting the use of these types of weapons.

Hezbollah, Lebanon’s paramilitary party, has been fighting for the Syrian regime and Assad since 2013. Hezbollah issued a statement Friday calling the U.S. airstrike an “idiotic step” that would lead to “great and dangerous tensions” in the Middle East, according to Reuters. The statement also said the attack was a “service to Israel,” but did not go into detail.

“This foolish step by Trump’s administration will lead to great and dangerous tensions in the region, and will also complicate the situation in the world,” the statement says, according to NNA.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader and public face of Hezbollah, has yet to respond to the situation.

Iran

Leaders in Iran, an ally to Assad and Hezbollah’s largest sponsor, have expressed disgust at the recent U.S. military action.

“Iran condemns use of all [weapons of mass destruction] by anyone against anyone,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted Friday morning. “Not even two decades after 9/11, US military fighting on same side as al-Qaida & ISIS in Yemen & Syria. Time to stop hype and cover-ups.”

Iran was one of the seven Muslim-majority countries targeted in Trump’s collapsed travel bans, and has been strongly critical of his administration. Tehran responded to the “hostile policies of the U.S. government” in January with reciprocal measures, barring American citizens from entering Iran.

Some in the Arab world started referring to Trump as “Abu Ivanka” in the wake of the military attacks, referring to his elder daughter, Ivanka Trump. Some Western media outlets have framed the nickname as a form of praise.

But calling the president “Abu Ivanka” could also be a form of mockery, since in the Arab world, “Abu” must be followed by the name of the eldest son, not a daughter. (Donald Trump Jr., not Ivanka, is Trump’s eldest child.) Therefore, using “Ivanka” could be a way to imply that his daughter is a more powerful or influential figure than the president himself.

Saudi Arabia

In sharp contrast to Iran, Saudi Arabia declared that it “fully supports” Trump’s military intervention, calling it a “courageous decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to respond to the regime’s crimes against its people.”

“A responsible source at the foreign ministry expressed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s full support for the American military operations on military targets in Syria, which came as a response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians,” state media reported.

Along with other Persian Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia has quietly supplied arms to rebel groups working to take out Assad.

The Financial Times reports that “America strikes the regime of Bashar” has been a popular hashtag among Saudi social media users.

Syria

Several Western media outlets have reported that in Syria, social media users are changing their avatars to show messages of adoration pasted atop photos of Trump.

“Syrians are changing their profile pictures to Donald Trump in order to ‘thank’ him,” reported Indy100.

But Rami Jarrah, a British-born Syrian analyst now based in Gaziantep, Turkey, says this gesture is being widely misinterpreted.

“In Syria, there used to be a slogan that means ‘We love you,’ and it’s basically the slogan that was used by the Syrian regime with pictures of Assad everywhere, because during his so-called ‘presidential campaign,’ that was his slogan,” Jarrah explained to The WorldPost.

“The idea is that [Syrians] are mocking it,” he went on. “They’re happy that Trump made the hit, but they’re mocking the idea of saying they love Trump.”

Syrians are generally pleased that the Trump administration is targeting Assad, especially after former President Barack Obama’s failure to enforce his “red line” against the regime’s atrocities, Jarrah said. But “there are mixed feelings.”

“Each person has mixed feelings, basically because it is an intervention, and Syrians generally have been opposed to interventions,” he said.

Obama earned a strong reputation in the Arab world following the inspirational messages he gave when he came into power and during the Arab Spring, Jarrah said. But “his statements were much more powerful than what actually happened,” which led to disappointment in Syria.

In contrast, Trump’s quick, retaliatory action has generally been well-received in the war-torn country, according to Jarrah.

“There’s a lot of dispute there right now, and Syrians are not proud of the intervention, but they do feel it’s necessary to place down that ‘red line,’” he said. “The worry is that this ‘red line’ [will be enforced] only after the use of deadly chemical weapons like sarin gas.”