Middle East
5:41 am
Sun May 19, 2013

How The Syria Debate Is Playing Out In The Middle East

Originally published on Sun May 19, 2013 2:11 pm

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

That concern is reflected in the Arab media. Ramez Maluf, head of the Department of Journalism at Balamand University in Lebanon, has been tracking that reaction. He joined us from our bureau in Beirut. And I asked him how invested people in the region are in the conflict in Syria.

RAMEZ MALUF: It's beginning to affect our lives. I mean, if you will keep in mind that in Lebanon the number of Syrian refugees is something like a million. It's a little bit more in Jordan, in Iraq as well. So in countries with a population of four to five million, like Lebanon or Jordan, a million refugees make a lot of difference in the daily lives of the other people. So they see them, they worry about them, they worry about all kinds of things. You know, a fourth of the population is actually consistent of refugees from Syria. So it's very, very significant.

Not only that, there's a lot invested in what happens in Syria. Syria was a country that was known to have a particularly strong position on the Palestinian issue. And, of course, it was a main backer of Hezbollah. So people are very, very attentive to what's happening in Syria. And it's a daily, almost, you know, daily concern on the part of the people in Lebanon and Jordan and Iraq, and the region as a whole.

MARTIN: President Obama, here in this country, has said that he has seen evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. And the U.S. had warned that such a development would be, quote, "redline" for possible intervention. What is the dominant sentiment in the press that you are reading? Is there a feeling that the U.S. should intervene?

MALUF: The conventional wisdom, what one reads almost daily in the press or hear it on television, is that the West, and particularly the United States, are happy with what's going on in Syria because they think that the war will actually exhaust all the parties involved. The sentiment here is that the West regards that as the best solution.

So I think the conventional wisdom by all sides - people who are sympathetic to the United States or not - is that the West, if it intervenes, it will intervene only to tilt the balance momentarily on the side of one group or the other but not in a decisive way. The intent is to have Syria dissolve.

The other thing is that there's never an outright call for a U.S. intervention. It's not something that is politically correct to call for the United States to intervene in Syria. This is not something that people will be willing to state openly. Nobody has done that.

MARTIN: Ramez Maluf is head of the Department of Journalism at Balamand University in Lebanon. Thank you so much, Professor.

MALUF: My pleasure.

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MARTIN: Tomorrow, a bright spot for President Obama and his foreign-policy. The White House on Monday hosts the president of Myanmar. It is an historic state visit and it highlights improved relations, as the former pariah nation takes steps towards democracy. That story and the day's top news tomorrow on MORNING EDITION.

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