War in Syria has impact in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The United States has concluded Syria carried out chemical weapons attacks against its people, President Barack Obama said Wednesday, a claim that comes amid a looming diplomatic showdown over whether to strike against Bashar al-Assad’s military.

At the Islamic Center of Virginia, several worshipers come from countries that have been torn apart by conflict.  Now as civil war is waged in Syria, millions of refuges are fleeing the country. Imam Ammar Amonette said a few refugees have sought solace at the Richmond-based mosque.

“Everyone is very concerned, and of course a lot of people have tried to get their families out of the country and some people have successfully brought their families here,” Amonette said.

The international community is working to prepare for a possible strike on Syria, after a chemical weapons attack killed 1,300 people there. For the past two years, more than 100,000 people have died in bombings, blasts and massacres. Those deaths were allegedly at the hands of the Syrian government, led by Syrian dictator Bashar-Al Assad.

Senator Tim Kaine (D – Virginia) said if the U.S. strikes Syria, Virginia-based military personnel will likely play a large role.

Four Norfolk-based destroyers are now positioned within striking distance of Syria in the eastern Mediterranean.  While Sen. Kaine said he cannot discuss military personnel currently on stand-by, he said Virginia’s role could be significant.

“We’re the most connected state to the military in the country,” Kaine said. The senator, who chairs a foreign-relations subcommittee,  said he hopes for a diplomatic resolution, but added the U.S. is prepared to use military force.

“The violation of this international norm against using chemical weapons is a very clear thing,” Kaine said.  “There has to be a consequence because if there isn’t, then things will get worse and worse.”

Amonette said he hoped the U.S. can intervene to help the millions of men, women and children plagued by violence in Syria.  However, he said he feared the consequences if the international community falls short of taking down the regime.

“They will destroy anything they have to destroy,” Amonette said.  “They will fight, they will kill, no matter what to survive as a power.”

(The CNN Wire contributed to this report)