Syria vows to respond if attacked, warns of World War III

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Syria’s deputy foreign minister said on Wednesday that the regime has taken “every measure” to respond to any U.S. attack, vowing not to change its position even if a third world war erupts.

In an exclusive interview with AFP, Faisal Muqdad said the government would counter a potential intervention aimed at punishing the regime of Bashar al-Assad over a suspected deadly poison gas strike and was mobilizing its allies.

“The Syrian government will not change position even if there is World War III. No Syrian can sacrifice the independence of his country,” he told AFP.

“Syria has taken every measure to retaliate against...an aggression,” he added, refusing to provide any clue as to what that might mean.

Muqdad said the regime was mobilizing its allies ahead of a possible strike, as U.S. President Barack Obama lobbies Congress to back intervention and the French parliament debates the issue.

U.S. credibility at stake

Obama issued a blunt challenge to skeptical U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday to approve his plan for a military strike on Syria, saying otherwise they would put America’s international prestige and their own credibility at risk, Reuters reported.

Using a visit to Sweden to build his case for limited military action against Syrian President Assad, Obama insisted that the international community could not remain silent in the face of the “barbarism” of the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack he blamed on Syrian government forces.

“My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line,” Obama told a news conference in Stockholm. “And America and Congress’ credibility is on the line, because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

Just a day before he travels to St. Petersburg to attend a G20 summit hosted by Vladimir Putin, Obama said he held out hope that the Russian president would back away from his support for Assad. But he stopped short of saying he had any high expectations for a change of heart.

Obama’s comments came after Putin offered a glimpse of potential international compromise over Syria on Wednesday by declining to entirely rule out Russian backing for military action as he prepared to host a summit of world leaders. At the same time, Putin said any strike on Syria would be illegal without U.N. support.

France, the apparent main ally of the United States in the plan to attack Syria, has warned that not taking action against Assad endangers regional peace and security.

“To not act would be to put in danger peace and security in the entire region. What credibility would our international commitments against non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons stand for?” Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told a parliamentary debate on Syria.

(With AFP and Reuters)