Anti-war mood ahead of congressional vote

Protests in U.S., Canada; Syrian Parliament urges Congress to vote ‘no’

Updated - June 02, 2016 10:32 am IST

Published - September 08, 2013 08:48 pm IST - Dubai

As anti-war protests gather steam and war weariness grips the United States, the momentum seems to be receding for a military strike on Syria, which has sought support from U.S. congressmen to stem the tide for an armed intervention.

The hardening anti-war mood in the U.S. and North America has begun to acquire high visibility ahead of the commencement of Monday’s congressional session, which will decide the fate of President Barack Obama’s call to unleash military strikes against Syria. The Obama administration is calling for limited but effective military strikes to punish Syria for allegedly killing hundreds of people by using Sarin gas in the outskirts of Damascus on August 21.

On Saturday, protesters made their presence felt outside the White House in Washington, as well as in New York, Indianapolis, Louisiana and Michigan—their wide geographical footprint also covering Toronto and Ottawa in neighbouring Canada. Many in Washington accused the Obama administration in their chants of building its case for an attack on “a lie” — a reference to the absence of conclusive evidence that would prove the Syrian government culpability in the atrocity committed last month. In New York, some carried the placard, “No more wars for corporate profit,” and, “Cut the Pentagon, not food stamps.”

As the pro-peace message expanded, the Catholic Church also spoke out firmly against military intervention in Syria. At a special mass peace vigil in the Vatican, where tens of thousands participated, Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church said: “In beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in the entire world, let us pray for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace.”

Separately, during the summit of the G-20 grouping hosted by Russia, President Vladimir Putin also pointed out at a news conference that “the overwhelming majority” of the world population opposed a military intervention in Syria.

Aware of the plummeting public support for an attack, which could result in a resounding and embarrassing defeat in the Congress, the Obama administration has embarked on a lobbying blitz to get the required numbers in Congress. The New York Times is reporting that President Obama will deliver a public address on Tuesday to seek support for the military strikes. A media surge to drum up support is also in the works, which includes recorded interviews by the President on Monday with the ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS and CNN news channels.

Besides, the Israeli lobby led by the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is not pulling its punches either. Around 250 AIPAC advocates are expected to descend on Capitol Hill to persuade lawmakers to back a strike— a move that is being coordinated with the President Obama’s address.

Yet, the herculean effort that is being mounted by the establishment may prove insufficient to muster the required support. Former Congressman Ron Paul—an influential public figure-- says that President Obama could be staring at a “historic” defeat in Congress, reflecting the quiet churning that American polity is currently undergoing. In an interview with NBC television, he said: “I think there’s a historic event going on here and if this vote is won, that is defeat [of] the request to have more military approach to Syria, and I think it will be historic because it would be a grand coalition of the Libertarian Republicans and the Democratic Progressives.”

With the U.S. congress becoming the focal point, Syrian parliamentarians have appealed to their American counterparts to stop the administration in its tracks. “We urge you not to take reckless measures as you have the power to steer the United States from the path of war to that of diplomacy,” SANA quoted parliament chief Jihad al-Lahham as saying. In tandem, Syria’s top ally Iran has accelerated diplomacy to prevent American intervention in the country. Iran’s deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is heading for Moscow on Monday for talks with his counterpart Mikhail Bogdanov.

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