Assad rejects chemical weapons allegations, warns US against attack

In interview in Russian paper, Assad warns US war in Syria would end in failure like Vietnam.

By REUTERS
August 27, 2013 00:19
3 minute read.
Syria's President Bashar Assad

assad making a small sign 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Syrian President Bashar Assad warned Washington in an interview published on Monday in Russia that any US military intervention in Syria would fail. He also denied his forces had used chemical weapons.

“Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day,” he told the pro- Kremlin Izvestia in an interview the Russian daily said had been conducted in Damascus.

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Assad said Syrian government forces had been close to the area, in suburbs of Damascus, where rebel forces accused his troops of firing poison gas projectiles last week, and that there was no clear front line there.

“Would any state use chemical or any other weapons of mass destruction in a place where its own forces are concentrated? That would go against elementary logic,” Assad told Izvestia.

“So accusations of this kind are entirely political and the reason for them is the government forces’ series of victories over the terrorists,” he said, referring to rebels fighting in the more than two-year-old civil war.

Dismissing the chemical weapons accusations as “nonsense” and “unsubstantiated,” Assad said the US, Britain and France had long sought to justify a military intervention in his country.

Russia has been Assad’s most important ally during the conflict, supplying his troops with arms and resisting pressure at the United Nations for tighter sanctions on Damascus.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told US Secretary of State John Kerry by telephone Sunday that Moscow was deeply concerned about the possibility of any US military intervention, a ministry statement said.

Washington has faced growing calls for action in response to Wednesday’s alleged gas attack. President Barack Obama previously declared that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “red line” that would require a firm response.

UN inspectors left central Damascus on Monday to examine sites of the chemical attack, a Reuters witness said, after calls from Western powers for military action to punish what might have been the world’s worst poison gas strike in 25 years. Syrian opposition activists estimated that from 500 to well over 1,000 people had died in the gassing.

Assad said Russia’s military support had helped Syria cope with international sanctions.

He cited unspecified contracts with Russian companies he said were helping. He gave no details except to say that contracts of this type helped Syrians get “basic products” needed for survival.

Asked about arms deliveries, Assad said: “I want to say that all contracts that have been concluded with Moscow are being fulfilled.”

He gave no details and did not say whether Damascus had taken delivery of Russia’s advanced S-300 air defense systems, which could vastly enhance Syrian defense capabilities.

Meanwhile, a commander of Iran’s Basij force, Brig.-Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, said the US was incapable of waging war on Syria.

“They (the Americans) are not able to enter a new war in the region because neither do their economic capabilities allow them nor do they have a proper morale and high spirit for starting a new war, hence this capability is not envisaged for them,” Naqdi said in Tehran on Monday, according to the Iranian Fars News Agency.

Also on Monday, a senior Iranian parliamentarian said Israel would be the first victim of such a war.

“No military attack will be waged against Syria,” said Hossein Sheikholeslam, the Iranian parliament’s director-general for international affairs, according to the report. “Yet, if such an incident takes place, which is impossible, the Zionist regime will be the first victim of a military attack on Syria.”

An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman claimed the US was going to implement an Iraq-like war in Syria.

“Presently, the Western countries are after implementing the same scenario (as the one applied in Iraq) in Syria when they accuse that country of using chemical weapons,” Abbas Araqchi told Iran’s Tasnim News Agency on Monday.

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