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For Syrians, Life Goes On Despite Likelihood Of U.S. Action

The author is a Syrian citizen in Damascus who is not being further identified out of safety concerns.

U.N. chemical weapons experts on Monday visited people hospitalized by an apparent gas attack last week in suburban Damascus. Although residents of the capital city have grown accustomed to war over the past two years, they say they are concerned abo

U.N. chemical weapons experts on Monday visited people hospitalized by an apparent gas attack last week in suburban Damascus. Although residents of the capital city have grown accustomed to war over the past two years, they say they are concerned about a possible U.S. military strike. (Abo Alnour Alhaji/Reuters/Landov)

Most residents of Damascus believe that a U.S. military strike is on the horizon, but few think it will have a dramatic impact on the course of a war that has already been raging for more than two years.

Those who follow the government line often speak about a U.S. conspiracy to overthrow the country's leader, Bashar Assad, as other Arab leaders have been toppled in recent years.

And even those who have backed the uprising against Assad say they are not comfortable with a Western nation attacking their country.

"Well, it's always shameful to say: 'Yes, we want foreigners — the West — to strike our country.' People don't say things like that," said Nabil, a newlywed in his early 30s. Like others interviewed for this story, he asked that only his first name be used.

Like millions of Syrians, he has been driven from his home. He and his wife, Rana, have been living with her parents in downtown Damascus for months.

"Well, let's be realistic," added Rana. "I'm not going to say I want a strike against my own country. But I do say I hope such a strike will help us out a little. We've seen so much already. Enough."

Samir, who served his mandatory military service in the late 1990s, said an attack could harm the Assad regime but it won't drive it from power.

"The strike won't necessarily change the equation on the ground. It's not meant to get rid of the regime," he said, adding that he always supported the uprising against Assad.

"The West is talking about a swift, 48-hour aerial assault against specific military targets," he said. "That seems to be the purpose of the strike, so I don't think it will necessarily be that helpful to the revolution."

Life Goes On As Normal

Despite the growing likelihood of a strike against Syria, Damascenes seem to go about their daily business as usual.

Shops in downtown were open as late as 9 p.m., with music blaring from some clothing stores. Young couples stayed out late into the evening, and outdoor seating at coffee shops remained full.

After more than two years of war, most Damascenes see little reason in making preparations beyond what they have already done in the ongoing war.

"We already have our mouneh," said Aida, 42, a homemaker, referring to the stockpile of nonperishable foods that almost every Syrian household prepares in ordinary times.

Such supplies include large jars of olives and various cheeses preserved in olive oil, homemade marmalade, and a variety of pickled vegetables, sometimes stuffed with nuts. When Syria's uprising turned civil war began, and at times food became scarce, many Syrians sustained themselves for weeks solely on their mouneh.

"We've endured so much. How much worse can it get? We're ready," Aida said.

Also, there's no evidence of a mass exodus out of Damascus.

At the passport renewal agency in downtown Damascus, dozens of people lined up for their new passports. Yet surprisingly, employees said it was considered a slow day.

"People who wanted to leave town have long gone," explained one employee. "It's been slow here for a while."

Some See A U.S. Conspiracy

Meanwhile, Baria, 50, a mother of three daughters and a grandmother of five small children, said the possibility of a military strike is "all part of the conspiracy."

She says she's not a regime supporter, though her statements echo the government's official line that there never was a legitimate uprising in Syria, only a "global conspiracy and terrorists out to destabilize" the country.

"Look, let me explain it to you," says Baria. The Americans "did it to Iraq, then to Libya. Then Syria and Egypt followed because 'they' encouraged a so-called uprising for so-called freedom. And now, they want to strike us to weaken Syria even more. It's all mere theater, and we are the puppets. And who benefits? Only Israel."

Categories: International Affairs