Obama strike threat becomes butt of Syrian jokes

DAMASCUS (AFP) - 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?" 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 August 21, Obama then referred the matter to Congress for a vote.

Now, with the prospects of a quick congressional vote diminishing and Mr Obama cautiously welcoming a Russian initiative that would see President Bashar al-Assad hand over his chemical arsenal, an imminent decision by the American 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 Mr 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 Mr 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.

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.

With some 60 per cent 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.