Eyes on Syria from the Southern Tier

By Matt Porter

September 12, 2013 Updated Sep 13, 2013 at 12:40 AM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Middle Easterners now living in the Southern Tier have been watching with a careful eye as President Barack Obama reconsiders his initial plan to bomb Syria, when a possible diplomatic solution emerged this week.

When Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cracked down harshly on peaceful protests almost two and a half years ago, the resulting civil war surprised many, including Dr. Walid Hammoud.

"Everybody was saying, even the American news media was saying, that Syria was the furthest away from having an Arab spring," Hammoud said.

Hammoud moved to the United States in the 1960s.

He's originally from Lebanon, a neighboring country of Syria.

Hammoud said the moment the Syrian dictatorship chose to use violence against peaceful protestors and begin a new civil war is the moment he knew Assad must go.

"First you must replace Assad," Hammoud said. "He represents the opposition, he represents the atrocities, he represent the situation in Syria as it is now."

But he isn't certain the replacement will be better.

"That's the dilemma for the Western powers, OK, we get rid of Bashar, who's coming?" he said.

Hammoud said if Syria is to become better, it must be moderates who do it.

"Somebody has to replace him who is moderate in their policies. Yes. Not necessarily pro-Western, but somebody who is moderate," he said.

Gulru Helvaci, a student from Turkey, has been following the war online.

She's from a city near the Syrian-Turkish border and her family has seen refugees pour in from Syria.

She questions why Assad is attacking his own people.

"I have no idea what he's trying to do," Helvaci said. "Maybe he's just trying to separate the people."

She said people in the Middle East are looking to the U.S. to restore the peace.

"I think probably they're waiting because everybody knows the USA has power," Helvaci said.

Meanwhile, more than 2 million people are now refugees from Syria due to the war.