Syria Debate Worries Northlander with Ties to Region

Posted at: 09/12/2013 5:04 PM | Updated at: 09/12/2013 7:27 PM
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

Talks between the U.S. and Russia over Syria's chemical weapons made headway on Thursday. It puts many across the country at ease, especially one Northlander with friends in Northern Iraq.

Tension remains in Syria, but the country's president, Bashar Assad, has pledged to hand over his arsenal of chemical weapons to international authorities.

Michele Naar-Obed and her friends in Iraq said they can breathe easier now that a military strike in Syria may be averted.

“They are relieved that there's at least a break, at least sombeody's taken a breath,” Naar-Obed said.

Naar-Obed spend time in Iraq during the last decade as a human rights activist. Now she helps exchange delegations of residents between Duluth and Rania, Iraq.

She said the potential strike on Syria wouldn't hit their country, but the border with Syria is only a few hundred miles away.

“It'd be like taking a trip down to the Cities in distance,” Naar-Obed said.

She said that proximity to the proposed military strike lets her friends feel the tension and emotional effects.

She said she knows teachers and journalists in Iraq. She said they've known turmoil and want to avoid military strikes so they can live their lives in peace.

“They start to come out of the hole and blossom and then something else happens like Syria. They want some breathing space so the best of who they are as people and their contributions to the world can be seen and appreciated,” Naar-Obed said.

She said the potential strikes displace civilians, and her friends have already seen Syrian refugees cross into Iraq.

“In the meantime their kids are living in tents, in tent cities, waiting out this game that's being played that they have now control over,” Naar-Obed said.

She said President Assad's cooperation is a sign those families may be able to return home soon, but a strike not completely out of the question.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had an op-ed in the New York Times on Thursday. The article was critical of the United States and it insulted some members of Congress.

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