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Oklahoma's Middle East experts discourage attack on Syria

by Silas Allen Modified: August 29, 2013 at 9:38 pm •  Published: August 29, 2013

Until a few days ago, Austyene Vaughan hadn't paid much attention to the crisis unfolding in Syria. But after a Facebook conversation with a friend, Vaughan realized the civil war there affected her more than she'd thought.

Vaughan, 19, is a Seminole State College student. While talking with a friend in the U.S. Marine Corps on Wednesday, she found out the man had been deployed to the Middle East as part of U.S. preparations to intervene in Syria's three-year-old civil war.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told BBC television Tuesday the Defense Department has “moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take.”

Since finding out her friend was there, Vaughan has been paying closer attention to news reports about Syria. She's never known anyone in the military before, she said, and knowing she has a friend who could be in danger makes her nervous.

“I would just pray to God that he comes back in one piece,” she said. “I just told him to be careful.”

As the United States inches closer to military action, a University of Oklahoma professor and expert on Syria said a broader intervention in the conflict would likely draw the United States into a quagmire.

Joshua Landis, a professor and director of OU's Center for Middle East Studies, said President Barack Obama has little to gain by involving the U.S. military.

Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of using chemical weapons against his own people in the conflict. Any American military action should be limited to punishing Assad for using chemical weapons and deterring him from using them again, Landis said.

Assad's objective is to kill as many rebel fighters as he can as quickly as possible, Landis said. Any American attack would need to focus on hurting Assad badly enough that using chemical weapons is no longer to his advantage.

“That's going to be very difficult to do,” he said.

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by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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