In the face of the US threat to attack Syria over its suspected use of chemical weapons, President Bashar Assad is “calm and serene and has strong nerves,” his political adviser said in an interview that aired on Wednesday.
Buthina Shaaban spoke to the Lebanese pro-Hezbollah Al-Mayadeen television station following a tweet in which US President Donald Trump wrote that “nice and new and ‘smart’” missiles will be used against Syria. Trump also called Assad a “gas killing animal who kills his people and enjoys it.”“We do not fear the war and we are prepared for it if it happens,” Shaaban said.After what was reportedly an Israeli attack on Syria’s T4 airfield on Monday, Syria and Russia have carried out “preparations,” she said.Shaaban accused the West of waging “psychological warfare” against Syria, but said this will not work and that things will not go as the Americans wish. “The game of engagement has been changed to serve the interests of Syria. We are stronger than before,” she said.She also charged that Israel is spearheading “aggression” against Syria, but predicted Israel would be the big loser from war.Shaaban railed against Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who has said that the kingdom could take part in the response to the suspected chemical weapons attack. “Muhammad bin Salman is a partner of aggression. Since 2011, Saudi Arabia has been a partner by funding and arming terrorists. Some Arab countries have chosen to stand in line with Israel; this increases the greediness of others toward Syria,” she said.MEANWHILE, Abdel-Bari Atwan, the editor of the London-based, pan-Arab website Rai al-Youm, predicted that Israel would play a central role in American attacks on Syria.Atwan referred to a report in Maariv quoting senior Israeli security officials as saying that Assad would be made to disappear in the event of an Iranian retaliatory attack for the T4 bombing, whose fatalities included Iranians.“We believed the aggression planned by Trump against Syria would take place at any moment and would be a tripartite French-British-American effort,” Atwan wrote. “But after the Israeli threats to erase Assad and his regime, we are now convinced that [Israel] – the state of occupation – will be in the heart of the new American coalition and the main instrument of its tools to attack. We don’t rule out that Iran and Hezbollah will be at the top of the targets.”Atwan wrote that Trump is now interested in an all-out war. “Trump has used the chemical attack as a pretext because he wants a bigger war on the Syrian land, not just missile strikes. He wants to divert the attention from America’s defeat on Syrian land... he is acting because the noose of impeachment is tightening around his neck, after the investigation for corruption charges and [for] forging the presidential election reached his office and lawyer.”He termed Trump’s tweet about the missiles “a declaration of comprehensive war by a shaken and defeated president who is trying to restore the centrality of international leadership that has gone to new forces like Russia and China – while he was busy collecting billions, blackmailing Arab leaders and engaging in his sexual and political scandals.”Atwan added that Assad will not be cowed. “Perhaps he will leave his palace – which will be a main target along with military and civilian airports and headquarters for security forces – but he will never leave Syria, as the Americans and Israelis claim.“He and his family didn’t leave when the shells were only meters away from them. He continued carrying out his duties for seven years. At one stage, he lost 60% of Syria’s land [to the rebels]. Will he leave now after he restored most of the land?” If anyone should be afraid, it is Israel, Atwan wrote. “Israel is threatening to erase Assad and his regime. It had 20 years to implement its threats and never did it. What Israel should fear is that its own existence is threatened now. It is [under] the threat of removing its existence. The missiles of the resistance can’t reach America but they will hit [Israeli] cities, settlements and airports from more than one front.”“Syria has been on the map for 8,000 years but Israel is only 70,” Atwan added. “Israel has lost all the wars [sic] during the last 35 years. Those [Israelis] who are threatening should take these facts into consideration.”
14 killed in alleged Israeli airstrike on Syrian airbase, April 10, 2018 (Reuters)