As Barack Obama embarks on a fateful campaign to enlist the support of US lawmakers for a strike in Syria, the Middle Eastern nation launched a media campaign of its own portraying Americans as cowards and war mongers.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad is leading the media offensive with a line of interviews with leading news outlets and foreign publications. Speaking with the BBC, he said Monday that any US military action against Syria would amount to "support for al-Qaeda and its affiliates".
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Last weekend, US Secretary of State John Kerry presented evidence that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against thousands of Syrians in order to justify an attack. According to Kerry, August 21's chemical assault killed more than 1,400 people, including 426 children.
Muqdad is claiming that rebels, and not government forces, used unconventional weapons. He warned that US intervention in Syria would deepen "hatred for the Americans" and destabilize the whole Middle East.
He said that Obama's surprise decision to seek congressional approval for strikes showed that he had not thought through all the "consequences".
But he added: "This did not change anything, since he (President Obama) is determined to launch an attack".
As for a vote in Congress, Muqad said it would base its decision on whether attacking Syria was in the interests of Israel.
One country that is wholly against a US assault in Syria is Iran, which has spent large sums of money and resources to fund Assad's campaign against the rebels.
An Iranian source was quoted in the al-Hayat newspaper as saying that Washington and Tehran have been engaged in talks aimed at preventing a military campaign in Syria in order to defuse regional tensions.
According to the report, Iranian President Hassan Rohani has set up a special forum including the foreign minister, defense minister, and Revolutionary Guards commander, to that aim. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has been tasked with handling negotiations with the US and convincing the Obama administration that an assault will not serve US interests in the region.
In exchange, Iran has pledged to rein in the Assad regime and call on Hezbollah fighters to leave Syria, it was reported. Tehran also demanded that Western nations stop arming radical al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist groups including Jabhat al-Nusra.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would also like to see the US abort plans to strike Syria. Speaking to Fatah members in Ramallah he said Monday, "We will not let an Arab country be bombed, and we condemn the use of chemical weapons on either side." He added that any solution in Syria must be political.
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