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Strike threat is butt of Syrian jokes

10 September 2013, 21:00

Damascus - A Syrian caricature shows US President Barack Obama smile and pluck the petals of a daisy, as he wonders, "Should I bomb? Or shouldn't I bomb?"

While a strike against President Bashar Assad's regime that was thought imminent a week ago was delayed, Syrians on both sides of their civil war are resorting to black humour, sharing jokes and cartoons via mobile phone and the internet.

After saying he had the authority to act on his own to strike the Syrian regime for its deadly use of chemical weapons near Damascus on 21 August, Obama then referred the matter to Congress for a vote.

Now, with the prospects of a quick congressional vote diminishing and Obama cautiously welcoming a Russian initiative that would see Assad hand over his chemical arsenal, an imminent decision by the president is even less likely.

That apparent hesitation to act has given both pro- and anti-Assad Syrians a field day.

One Syrian posted a picture of Obama on Facebook with a biting caption that reads: "When Congress gives me the green light to strike, I will ask my wife Michelle and my in-laws. If they say it's alright, I'll go ahead!"

Meanwhile, an Assad opponent said on the internet he wants to "sue Barack Obama for spreading false information and for breaching the peace", 10 days after announcements were made of what seemed to be an imminent strike.

Another joke making the rounds on anti-regime Facebook pages was much darker, more than two years into a conflict that has left more than 100 000 dead.

"Mr President, you are right. We should wait another three years until the Syrian people are extinct," it read.

Cartoons mocking Obama's "indecision" made the rounds, with one depicting the US president as Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse.

Another joke makes fun of the US secretary of state, calling on Syrians to sign up for an imagined mobile phone service called John "Kerry, inform me at any cost" of when a strike would take place.

Some shared a joke about a man using unconventional means to propose to his fiancée: "Honey, let's wait till after the strike. We'll see what happens then."

Others told of a man who tried to convince his wife they needed to find a new home before the strike, while she replied: "Let's wait. Rent will be cheaper afterwards."

While the regime appeared not to have put in place any exceptional measures ahead of a possible, some commentators mocked the panic stirred in neighbouring countries.

"The Israelis have distributed gas masks, the Jordanians are on alert, the Turks are deploying anti-aircraft missiles day and night, the Lebanese are nervous, the Iraqis are lost and the Egyptians are following up on our news more than their own..."

"Are we sure there's a strike against Syria?" quipped one Facebook user.

Another imagined Syrians gathering, as they would to watch a football match, around "giant screens in public places, to watch the military strike live".

"An evening with shisha and drinks," the internet surfer joked.

The football theme ran through other jokes, as a cartoon mocking the idea that Obama's strike would hit sensitive targets showed players covering their groins with their hands.

"Hide them well. We want to continue having children," the caption reads.

With some 60% of Americans opposed to a strike, according to a survey published on Monday, Obama has placed both the United States' and his own credibility at stake over the matter.



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