In a telephone interview with Syrian State television, U.N. envoy to Syria Bashar al-Jaafari said that Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron — who last week ruled out military action after failing to get parliamentary approval — had “climbed to the top of the tree” but didn’t know how to get down, and so had deferred the decision to lawmakers.
“Whether the Congress lights the red or green light for an aggression, and whether the prospects of war have been enhanced or faded, President Obama has announced yesterday, by prevaricating or hinting, the start of the historic American retreat,” the state-run daily newspaper Al-Thawra said.
The Syrian Opposition Coalition released a statement urging Congress to support military action, saying that if the international community does not respond to Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons, it would set a dangerous example for other dictatorships around the world.
“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.”
Tariq al-Dimashqi, a 30-year-old activist from the Eastern Ghouta area of the Damascus suburbs which was the hardest hit in the Aug. 21 chemical attack that the Obama administration says killed 1,429 people, said he now had little faith that there would be any military intervention.
“We are so deeply disappointed,” he said. “This is all just another political game. If they wanted to hit Assad, they would attack immediately, no delay, no warning.”
“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.
Obama’s announcement came as Syrians braced for an American attack after U.N. inspectors who were investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria left the country. Their departure opened the door to the possibility that strikes could be imminent, even though U.S. officials had already stressed that no decision had been made to proceed with punitive attacks intended to deter the use of chemical weapons.