The United States would face failure if it attacked Syria, President Bashar al-Assad has said in an interview with a Russian newspaper.
Assad told pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia that Syria would never be a “puppet” of the West and warned the US against attacking his country.
In his remarks that appeared in the newspaper on Monday, he said Washington has never succeeded in reaching its political aims through war, arguing that US’ previous military campaigns in recent years had always fallen short of their goals.
“The US faces failure just like in all the previous wars they waged, starting with Vietnam and up to our days,” he said.
“America has taken part in many wars but could not once achieve its political goals for which the wars were started. Yes, it is true, the great powers can wage wars but can they win them?” he asked.
The alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb last Wednesday has spurred calls for global action against the Syrian regime, putting pressure on US President Barack Obama, who has defined use of chemical weapons in the country as “red lines”.
In the interview, Assad also described Western claims that his regime used chemical weapons in Syria as “insult to common sense”.
Assad accused the US of first making the accusations that his regime used chemical weapons in an attack outside Damascus which activists say killed hundreds, and only later starting to look for proof.
He said the army frontline in the area where the incident took place was not clear and the Syrian regime would have risked killing its own forces if it used chemical weapons. “This contradicts elementary logic,” Assad said.
“Such accusations are completely political and the reason for them is a number of victories by the government forces against the terrorists.”
The alleged chemical weapons attack in Ghouta last Wednesday killed 355 people, according to the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Western powers and rebels have blamed the Syrian government for the incident, while Damascus claims the opposition carried out the attack.
A UN expert team has been given access to the site of the alleged attack and is expected to begin investigations into the claims on Monday.
With calls mounting for military action against Syria, Assad warned Western states to stop interfering in the affairs of other countries and instead “listen to the opinion of the people”.
|Former US General Wesley Clarke talks to Al Jazeera on a possible military action against Syria|
Assad said: “If someone is dreaming of making Syria a puppet of the West, then this will not happen. We are an independent state, we will fight against terrorism and we will build relations with whom we want for the good of the Syrian people.”
As the opposition Syrian National Council called on major powers to intervene in Syria, Obama on Saturday met senior security officials to consider US options on how to respond to the crisis.
The US boosted its naval presence in the region, a move which the US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Sunday gave the president greater flexibility.
France’s foreign minister said on Monday no decision had been made yet on whether to take military action in response to the reported poison gas attack in Syria, but that all options were on the table.
“The decision has not been taken,” Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio. “There has to be a proportional reaction … and that will be decided in the coming days.”
Ankara to ‘join’ coalition against Syria
Turkey would join any international coalition against Syria even if a wider consensus on action cannot be reached at the United Nations Security Council, Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, was quoted as saying on Monday.
Ankara, a former ally of Assad, has been a staunch supporter of the Syrian opposition in the two-and-a-half-year-old conflict.
“We always prioritise acting together with the international community, with UN decisions. If such a decision doesn’t emerge, other alternatives … would come onto the agenda. Currently 36-37 countries are discussing these alternatives. If a coalition is formed against Syria in this process, Turkey would take its place in this coalition,” Davutoglu told the Milliyet daily.
Meanwhile Russia has continued expressing its concern over a possible US military action on Syria.
Referring to a telephone conversation between Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, on Sunday, the Russian foreign ministry said that Moscow urged Washington to refrain from falling for “provocations”.
“The minister [Lavrov] stressed that the official announcements from Washington in recent days about the readiness of US armed forces to ‘intervene’ in the Syrian conflict have been received in Moscow with deep concern,” the ministry said in a statement.