Search

 

Cablegate: Confused and Angry: Syrian Public Reacts to Alleged U.S.

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0763/01 3041544
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 301544Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5510
INFO RUCNNAF/NORTH AF NEA AND SOUTH ASIAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000763

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA, NEA/PPD, INR/NESA, IIP, PA, ECA, BEIRUT FOR
SISON, GRANT, LENZEN

SENSITIVE, SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV PREL SY
SUBJECT: CONFUSED AND ANGRY: SYRIAN PUBLIC REACTS TO ALLEGED U.S.
ATTACK

1. (SBU) Summary and Comment: Public Affairs Staff reached out to
Syrian contacts and monitored online news sources to gauge public
opinion following the alleged U.S. military attack in Abu Kamal on
October 26. These contacts and sources offered unfiltered and
candid responses. Most expressed confusion about the reasoning
behind the attack, which has led to widespread speculation about its
true aim. Others questioned the reliability of SARG-controlled
media reports and the effects of closing U.S. facilities. While the
predominant reaction was confusion, some contacts expressed clear
anger about the attack. End Summary and Comment.

-----------------------------
Why did the U.S. Attack Now?
-----------------------------

2. (SBU) Contacts questioned the rationale for the attacks; most
believe it was motivated by the upcoming Presidential elections. A
journalist stated: "The Americans cannot make Obama win. It is
obvious: Bush has done this to frighten the American people and make
them vote for the Republicans, who are known for their warrior
attitude." A senior editor disagreed: "Even if McCain wins it won't
be because of this. The Americans have had enough of war." He
attributed the attacks to a U.S. desire to spoil improving
Syrian-Iraqi relations: "There are some circles in Washington who
are not happy with the improvement in Syrian-Iraqi relations. Prime
Minister Otri was about to leave for Baghdad on an official visit
that might have changed the face of the region. This did not
satisfy those circles, who created this raid to foil the
improvement, and this is the result."

---------------------------------
"Very Bad, The Worst I Have Seen"
---------------------------------

3. (SBU) A well-placed Syrian contact close to the Public Affairs
staff observed that anger toward the U.S. is "very bad, the worst"
she has seen. She confided that "the issue for people is respect
for borders," referring to Syria's national sovereignty. The
prevailing view, she said, is that "the U.S. does whatever it wants.
We [Syria] need to find a way to retaliate." Another contact
stressed that "the Israeli attacks were bad enough, but this
[attack] is worse, because people were killed. The [Syrian]
government had to take a stance to keep the people's respect. This
is the worst thing so far, because it involved scenes of dead
children." A greengrocer stated: "The evil Americans -- what else
can we expect from them?"

----------------------------------
Are the Syrian Media Reports True?
----------------------------------

4. (SBU) While the government propaganda machine was in full swing,
not surprisingly, its reporting generated some skepticism. A local
journalist commented: "The government says there were kids.
Journalists who visited the area said they saw seven bodies - all
adults." [Note: This refers to an AP report from the funeral of
those killed in the attack. The AP reporter noted he saw seven
bodies of the reported eight dead, but all appeared to be adults.
End Note]. A Syrian political activist stated: "It will relieve us
if the White House explains why the raid took place. If it was
really about chasing Al-Qaeda, and if the Americans could kill or
capture a senior Al-Qaeda figure, it will relieve us. But now it is
difficult for us to defend the Administration and even to defend the
Embassy."

------------------------------------------
Public Mixed about Closing U.S. Facilities
------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The public has become vocal about the SARG request for the
U.S. Embassy to close the American Cultural Center and the Damascus
Community School. A female activist questioned, "What can they
[students] do now? Where can they go?" She expressed her sympathies
for the students who are "negatively affected by politics." Another
commented that she hoped it was only a "temporary closure." Other
activists expressed personal concern, because many study English at
the American Language Center, and asked: "What if the Embassy
responds by closing the consular section? Who will be the losers
then?"

6. (SBU) As news of reported or possible closures began to hit the
press, the Educational Advising and Testing Office at the American
Cultural Center was flooded with phone calls from students and
parents concerned about upcoming tests (SAT, TOEFL, GRE) and how
events would affect their ability to study in the United States.
They were not deterred. Similarly, Syrian Fulbright nominees
e-mailed and called the CAO to express concern about the Cultural
Center and its staff's safety and to inquire about their
scholarships.

7. (SBU) An online commentor asserted that the SARG "has to close
the U.S. Embassy until an official response [to the raid] from the
USG has been received, to explain that they are cowards and
terrorists." Another asked: "Who needs such an embassy?! I hope
they [the SARG] kick out the U.S. Ambassador as well." [Note:
Embassy Damascus has not had an ambassador since 2005. End Note.]


8. (SBU) Comment: Interestingly, most Syrian contacts and on-line
commentators expressed not anger, but confusion, over the alleged
U.S. attack, in particular its timing. It is also clear that
elements within Syria hostile to the U.S. will use this opportunity
to foster anti-U.S. sentiment. In the absence of a clear U.S.
response to these attacks, many contacts noted, speculation about
its true intent will only continue. End Comment.


CONNELLY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: