Southern California Syrians contemplate US military action in their homeland

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An image grab taken from a video shows opposition fighter holding a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) as his fellow comrades take cover from an attack by regime forces on August 26, 2013 during clashes over the strategic area of Khanasser.

Just as the general public is divided over the merits of military intervention in Syria, southern California's Syrian community is also debating what is the best course of action.

Reem Salahi is a Pasadena attorney and former president of the Muslim Bar Association of Southern California. She was born in the U.S. but has traveled to Syria often to visit family -- most recently in July. 

Salahi wants the Bashar Assad regime to go and for the violence to end. But she feels ambivalent about U.S. involvement.

"I think if you had asked me maybe a year ago, or even a few months ago, I would have said I’m adamantly against U.S. intervention," she said. But on Salahis' recent trip to Syria, she traveled to rebel-controlled areas in the northwest, "and it was really shocking to see what I saw, to see the poverty, and how intractable the conflict is, and how terrifying it is to live there."

At the same time, Salahi fears U.S. air strikes on Syrian military targets may not stop attacks on civilians.

As Hassan Twiet watched President Obama announce that he was asking Congress to authorize air strikes against Syria, his only complaint was that the president hadn't acted sooner. 

Twiet directs the L.A.-area chapter of the Syrian American Council, a group that has pushed for political change in Syria. He is Sunni Muslim, as are many of the rebels fighting Assad’s Alawite regime. Twiet says seven members of his extended family died in last week’s reported chemical weapons attack.

The crisis has dragged on too long, said Twiet, arguing that American action could help tilt the balance against the regime. 

"We are not asking for the U.S. to put troops on the ground," he said. "We are asking for a military air strike, swift and decisive," against all of the regime's airfields. "Weaken the military, to the point that the population can take over," said Twiet.

Correction: An earlier version of this story identified Salahi as current bar association president.

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