Syrian Deputy FM Threatens Retaliation Against Israel, Jordan and Turkey if U.S. Strikes
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad called for dialogue with the United States Tuesday with the aim of talking President Barack Obama down from striking the country in response to alleged chemical weapons use by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. At the same time, he threatened that Syria would retaliate against a potential strike by hitting its neighbors, Israel, Jordan and Turkey, according to an interview with The Wall Street Journal, in Damascus.
“We hope the American representatives will exercise wisdom, will listen to the voice of justice, not to provocative actions,” said Foreign Minister Al-Mekdad, Syria’s former envoy to the United Nations, who served from 2003 to 2006. “We love the American people, we have millions of Americans of Arab origin including Syrians and we do not want wars with the United States.”
According to the WSJ, Al-Mekdad said “Damascus would strike back not only at Israel, but also at Syria’s neighbors Jordan and Turkey if they take part in any U.S.-led operation.” The newspaper quoted him as saying: “Once the attack against Syria starts from Jordan then Jordan will suffer.”
Jordan has vowed to stay out of the conflict, but the country is already involved through playing host to a joint U.S. CIA-Saudi Arabia program to train and arm rebels opposed to the regime of Syrian president Assad, the WSJ said.
“Once the war starts nobody can control what will happen,” Al-Mekdad told the WSJ. “We believe that any attack against Syria will definitely result in chaos in the entire region if not beyond” and would be “a tragedy against the Syrian people and the American people and all people in the region.”
Al-Mekdad said, “I assure them that the Syrian government did not use chemical weapons against Syrians and will not use them against Syrians and will always be ready for dialogue with the American people and its representatives.”
In the interview, Al-Mekdad blamed rebels opposing the regime for unleashing chemical weapons in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013, the event that sparked the international community’s efforts to seek a response. Al-Mekdad said the rebels made the controversial move out of frustration because the Syrian military had prevented them from reaching Damascus.
“Any wars of this type are horrible and are unacceptable; we are in a state of war in Syria,” Al-Mekdad said. “We cannot ignore the suffering of the entire Syrian people but those criminal gangs in Syria, the armed groups, have falsified events in Syria since the beginning.”
The Syrian civil war has caused more than 100,000 deaths, mostly civilians, and forced some 2 million people to flee the country as refugees, a figure expected to reach 3.5 million by year-end, U.N. officials said Tuesday.