Russia Beyond The Headlines interviewed ordinary Syrians to know what they think about probable military intervention in the country and what consequences it will bring about.

People demonstrate for United States involvement in the conflict in Syria on Aug. 31, in Houston. Photo: AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin appealed to his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama not as to a colleague, “but as to the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize,” urging him not to forget that any air strikes against Syria “will lead to casualties, including people in the civilian population.”

The Syrians are living in fear of anticipated American attacks, hoping that the upcoming G20 Summit will exert influence on the White House. RBTH journalists asked ordinary Syrians what they feared most today.

Muhammad Ali, teacher:

“Most of all, I'm afraid of what will happen after the strikes. It is clear that no one can stop America if it decides to strike. Military casualties may be large, but, very likely, there will be even more victims among the civilian population. I do not mean causalities that will be caused by inaccurate strikes — as was the case in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Libya — but victims of subsequent murders and massacres.

“It is expected that radical Islamists will take advantage of this situation and attack areas that are loyal to the authorities of the country. First of all, these will be towns and villages on the coast. Most of all, I fear that, due to the weakening of the army caused by the U.S. strikes, sectarian violence could break out, because over 1.5 million refugees from other parts of Syria are now living on the coast. The world must take into account the possible consequences of such strikes.”

Mustafa Masri, bookstore clerk:

“I will not conceal that I was cheered by the news of America’s plans to strike. We are tired of this regime and understand that it will not fall without outside intervention. However, despite the fact that I support this intervention, I’m afraid of chaos breaking out in Syria, which may start if the state falls apart. Syria could turn into another Somalia.”

Jinan Khudr, student:

“At least 100–200 people are killed every day in Syria. We are tired of the deaths. I have a strange feeling: It’s a mixture of fear of death and a relief that the end is near. It is impossible to live this kind of life endlessly, because the expectation of death is worse than death itself. The world uses the souls of the Syrians as a deck of cards. So, let them play the last game and put our souls to rest.”

Fadi Salman, entrepreneur:

“I fear two things — if government troops do not respond to the American strikes, and if there is a response. Both can lead to great causalities. I see the whole Middle East being on the verge of an explosion, because the smoldering fires of confrontation have been fed with huge quantities of weapons for a long time already, and this can end only in one thing — a big bang.

“If the target of the strike is destruction of the regime, then it is necessary to understand what can happen after it falls. The fall of the regime may lead to the victory of radical forces in Syria, and then the destruction of yet more civilians. However, America says that the objective of its strike is only to weaken the regime, and this means only the continuation of the civil war, with further suffering for Syrians.”

Jalal Ganim, sales manager:

“I fear that this strike will have no effect, and people's lives will become even harder and more dangerous. Our region is full of chemical weapons. The many forces active in Syria can get them from various sources, so the use of chemical weapons may be repeated, and it’s impossible to say in advance where this will happen and who will use such weapons. I’m also afraid that, if Iran enters this war on the side of the Syrian regime, then the war may well spread to the entire region.”

Mustafa Dali, restaurant waiter:

“I'm afraid that weakening of the regime will result in the strengthening of radical Islamists of the Dzhabhat en-Nusra. This is a tragic development.”

Khalid Abdul-Salam, engineer:

“I’m afraid that chaos in the country will just increase. In any case, the results will be tragic. The strike may even have the opposite effect: The regime will become stronger and the people will weaken. Most likely, if the regime falls as a result of the strike, the country will fall into the hands of Islamists.

“Europe is very shortsighted when supporting America; after all, they need to realize that this will affect it directly. This is a vicious circle: At first, it supports the Islamists in Syria, and then Syria will export terrorists to Europe and other regions. The world must think about what will happen after the American strikes.”

This article first appeared in Russia Beyond The Headlines.