Middle East

Mood around the world as Syria military strike looms

The US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) launches a Tomahawk cruise missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn on 29 March 2011 from the Mediterranean Sea

As the US and its allies consider possible military strikes against sites in Syria, Israelis are scrambling for gas masks and oil prices are soaring.

Here, BBC correspondents based in some of the countries most likely to be affected share their reflections of the mood in the streets.

Nitin Srivastava from Delhi

Very few Indians remain in Syria as the government advised citizens to return at the beginning of the unrest.

Any mention of a possible strike in Syria generally evokes raised eyebrows from many Indians.

Many confuse it with the violence in Iraq and several ask: "Is the US set for another war?"

Image caption India's rupee fell to record lows this week amid concerns about US-led strikes against Syria

But there is something most Indians are unanimous about. "If another war breaks out in the Middle East, fuel is going to get dearer," many have expressed.

India is primarily dependent on oil imports and crude oil prices have sky-rocketed in recent months.

The Indian government's decision to lessen oil subsidies has gradually made diesel more expensive, resulting in transportation costs going up along with the price of basic commodities such as vegetables and consumer goods.

Although many feel that the US might not be in a position to afford another war, they do appreciate the fact that India has by and large been neutral.

But several leaders have also asked the government to clarify its stand on Syria in clear terms.

Hugh Schofield from Paris

After the outrage, the hesitation.

At the start of the week President Hollande was poised to lead France into a "punitive" military venture against the Syrian regime.

Two days later, there's a noticeable shift in tone.

Meeting the Syrian opposition leader, President Hollande spoke only in general terms about a need to "stop the violence".

Image caption President Hollande (L) does not need parliamentary approval to launch a military attack lasting less than four months

Newspaper editorials, which waxed lyrical about the horrors of the Damascus "massacre", now echo Le Figaro's headline on the proposed attack: Pour Quoi Faire? (To achieve what, exactly?)

Public opinion is increasingly cautious too.

The graphic TV images broadcast at the weekend stoked indignation and an impulse to respond.

But now polls show only a slight majority in favour of action - and that is only if it is carried out under UN auspices (of which there is little prospect).

There is a powerful moral current in French policy-making.

But today who decides the moral argument?

The humanitarian interventionists (like former Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner) urging military action to protect the vulnerable? Or the international legitimists (like Dominique de Villepin) who warned of gun-happy governments making a bad situation worse?

Stephen Evans from Berlin

A poll out earlier this week in Germany indicated strong opposition to military intervention in Syria.

Forsa, widely seen as a reputable polling organisation, reported that 69% of those asked were against and 23% were in favour.

And of that minority in favour, not all were for German involvement - in other words, some were in favour but without German participation.

Image caption Anti-war protesters staged demonstrations in Berlin this week

With a federal election less than a month away, the government is treading carefully.

"If such an act (of using poison gas on Syrian citizens) should be confirmed, than the world community must act," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

Germany would "belong to those who call for the appropriate consequences," he added, but he did not spell out what those consequences should or might be.

Not only does Germany have an election on the way, complicating the ability to act, but there is a whole weight of historical baggage for obvious reasons.

The left is very against German military intervention, but others are divided with some arguing that Germany's past actually gives it an obligation to intervene to prevent the mass killing of ordinary citizens.

On top of that, Germany decided not to get involved in the toppling of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya; a decision later criticised in the country when the despot had been toppled.

Daniel Sandford from Moscow

An unscientific poll outside a Moscow Metro station showed very little support for any outside military action in Syria.

Opinions were divided over who had carried out the alleged chemical attack last week. Some Muscovites I spoke to thought President Assad was responsible, others thought it was an American or rebel provocation.

But nobody thought that America or its allies should launch air strikes or missile attacks in response. They insisted that the United States should stay out of the Syrian conflict.

All that said, people in Moscow lead frenetic lives and - although the Russian government is a strong ally of President Assad - Syria is not high on ordinary people's agenda.

It is not like 1999 when Russians were outraged by the Nato attacks on Serbia, a country with which they feel a strong ethnic bond.

Quentin Sommerville from Tripoli, Lebanon

In the Lebanese city of Tripoli, Syria Road divides the neighbourhoods of Bab Tabaneh and Gabal Mehsin along sectarian lines, with snipers on both sides.

The Sunni-Shia split that runs through the Middle East separates the neighbourhoods.

Image caption Lebanon is feeling the heat of Syria's war, not least due to the large numbers of refugees crossing the border every day

It is two months, locals say, since the last person was killed in a gun battle, but there are plenty who have been injured.

The buildings are pockmarked from previous conflicts, some of the bullet holes are relatively fresh.

As one side of the division honours its martyrs from the war in Syria with huge portraits hanging above roads and from apartment blocks, the other takes pot shots at their posters.

The war in neighbouring Syria is felt directly on the streets of Lebanon.

The suffering and the violence hasn't been kept just within Syria's borders. And as the conflict escalates, so too does the danger, not just to Lebanon, but to the entire region.

Richard Galpin from Tel Aviv

The temperature is hitting 35C and the queues outside the gas mask distribution centre in Tel Aviv - the only one in the region - are moving painfully slowly.

Some people have been waiting six hours for the masks which they fear may be needed if the United States and its allies start bombing Syria.

Image caption Many, like this woman, have been jostling to collect gas masks in Israel

Plastic water bottles and cigarette packets lie empty on the floor around, and a man selling frozen drinks says he has sold 300 since the morning.

At the front of the queue an official pushes open the heavy glass door, shouts out a name and hands over a clutch of boxes containing gas masks to a relieved woman.

Others push forward holding up their identity cards, hoping the official will take down their names so they are next in line.

While tempers fray and frustrations show, there is no sense of panic here.

But there is fear that either the Syrian military or Hezbollah in southern Lebanon could attack Israel in retaliation for Western air strikes.

"Its frightening for me and my baby," says Yulia, as she waits in the special queue for people with young children.

"It's also frightening because my husband could be called in for the military reserve. The repercussions for us could be really, really bad."