Syria yesterday urged US lawmakers to show “wisdom” in their vote on a proposed military strike on Damascus, after US President Barack Obama decided to seek congressional approval.
Labelling Obama “hesitant, disappointed and confused,” Faisal Mikdad, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, again denied his government was behind an alleged poison gas attack on August 21 that precipitated Western calls for military action.
“We ask the US Congress to show wisdom,” Mikdad told reporters in Damascus, in the government’s first reaction to Obama’s Saturday announcement.
Syria’s state-run news agency SANA quoted President Bashar Assad as saying his government is capable of confronting a US strike. “Syria ... is capable of facing up to any external aggression just as it faces up to internal aggression every day, in the form of terrorist groups and those that support them,” Assad said.
Syria continues to “record victory after victory,” he added.
Mikdad claimed that Obama stepped back from his threat because his administration lacks evidence of Syrian government involvement in purported poison gas attacks.
“The hesitation and the disappointment is so obvious in the words of President Obama yesterday,” Mikdad said. “The confusion was clear as well.”
Syria’s opposition expressed disappointment Obama had put on hold his plans for military action, but said it was confident US lawmakers would green-light a strike.
The Assad government claims the attacks were carried out by rebel fighters, but has not presented proof.
US officials said Obama would lobby world powers on the sidelines of the St Petersburg G20 summit this week.
But the toughest battle, and perhaps the most dangerous for Obama’s credibility, may yet be with his own former colleagues in Congress, where support for strikes is far from assured.
Indeed, observers warn that Obama faces the same fate as UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who last Thursday lost his own vote on authorizing military action in the British parliament.
At least five US warships armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles are in the eastern Mediterranean ready to strike at Syrian targets.
Mikdad also launched a broadside against France, which supports military action against Damascus, accusing its leaders of being irresponsible and trying to dupe their own people.
He had scathing words for its President Francois Hollande.
“There is a responsible government in Syria but there is no responsible government in Paris,” Mikdad said. “We believe the president and his foreign minister are deceiving the French people to justify the failed policies against Syria, and they will not succeed.”