‘Assad comes out of this mess victorious’

The Washington Post reports: Syrians opposed to President Bashar al-Assad expressed anger on Saturday that President Obama had apparently decided against an imminent strike in Syria, saying that failure to act after the threats that have been made would embolden Assad’s government.

After Obama announced that he would seek congressional approval for any attack on Syria, deferring any possible military action for at least 10 days, rebel fighters predicted that Assad loyalists would seek to use the delay to escalate attacks on rebel strongholds.

“Assad has been given the green light by the international community,” said Musab Abu Qatada of the Damascus Military Council, speaking from a rebel-held area west of the capital. “The message he got from the international community is that he can kill his people with conventional means, just not with chemical weapons.”

After a day of widespread panic in the capital of Damascus that saw residents throng bakeries and grocery stores in anticipation of American strikes, others who said they had hoped U.S. intervention would dent Assad’s hold on power also said they were dismayed.

“I feel betrayed,” said a 24-year-old woman who spoke on the condition of being identified by only her first name, Sarah, because she fears retaliation.

“Assad comes out of this mess victorious. He is winning so far, and his confidence in himself and his regime will grow,” she said, speaking by telephone from the capital. [Continue reading…]

Reuters reports: Syria hailed an “historic American retreat” on Sunday after President Barack Obama delayed an imminent military strike by deciding to consult Congress.

As Obama stepped back from the brink, France said it could not act alone in punishing President Bashar al-Assad over a chemical weapons attack, making it the last remaining top Western ally to hesitate about bombing Syria.

“Obama announced yesterday, directly or through implication, the beginning of the historic American retreat,” Syria’s official al-Thawra newspaper said in a front-page editorial.

The U.S. president said on Saturday he would seek congressional consent before taking military action against Damascus for the August 21 attack which he blames on Assad’s forces – a decision likely to delay any strike for at least nine days.

Syria’s deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad denounced any armed Western move against his government. “A decision to wage war on Syria is a criminal decision and an incorrect decision. We are confident that we will be victorious,” he told reporters outside a hotel in Damascus. [Continue reading…]

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