NEW DELHI: The United States, using brutal military might, attacked Syrian Air Force bases with 60 Tomahawk missiles for what US President Donal Trump claimed was a revenge attack against the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on his own people. Without stopping to investigate, or even bothering to check the basic facts, the missile attack was launched. Assad’s protests were heeded, as Trump sought to establish his mach0-military power through an attack that seems now to have strengthened the Islamic State, and weakened the one force that was fighting it effectively on the ground, the Syrian Army.

Russia has officially protested and promised all military help to the Syrian Army. Relations between the US and Russia have dipped to an all time low, with West Asia now a flashpoint for what could become a very dangerous consequence of the US military action. Syria’s Ambassador to India Dr RIAD ABBAS is a seasoned diplomat, close to President Abbas and clear in what he needs to say. In an interview with The Citizen Editor Seema Mustafa Dr Abbas points out that the motive for such an attack rested with the Opposition, and certainly not with the Syrian government and Army that had made massive inroads in winning the current battle against the Islamic State. A logic that cannot be faulted given the circumstances on the ground, and the news from the region of Syrian Army victories against IS strongholed---backed by even Washington and its media---over the last few weeks.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. The Americans have attacked Syria on the basis of the chemical attack on your people.Who is responsible for the chemical attack against the Syrians?

A. We do not have any chemical weapons. The Government of Syria has been inspected, and remains under the watch of the United Nations since three years or more. We do not have these weapons, we will not use such weapons, we condemn the use of chemical weapons as a criminal act.

You have to see who benefits from such use. Why would the Syrian Army use these weapons against its own people? It was winning the war against the Islamic State, our soldiers were moving from victory to victory against the Islamic State. Any such use would only create problems for the Syrian Army, everyone knew that.

Also if the Syrian Army needed to, it could have used ordinary conventional weapons to finish the entire village. Who would have stopped us from doing that? Why would the Syrian Army even need to use these chemical weapons, and that too against our own people?

The only people with a motive were the Opposition and the Islamic State. ISIS was losing step by step, battle after battle, and needed something to stop the forward advent of the Syrian Army. They could no longer fight us, so they attacked the civilians instead. Our Army was about to completely defeat the ISIS, this has set us back.

Q. So would you say you are victim of a huge conspiracy. As suggested now also by the Russians?

A. Yes. Show us the proof, give the evidence. You attacked us without any investigation, without any proof. How is that allowed? How can that be?

Q. The US now seems to have had some kind of second thoughts….

A. The US has been wanting to attack us and our Army for a long while. Over the last few weeks again this has been very evident to us. They have made no secret of their wish to change our government, to change our policies and have been trying to do this all along for years now.

For this the US first supported an army of mercenaries, Salafists, extremists against Syria but they failed; then they used countries like Turkey to attack Syria, this also failed; then Israel came out to hit our Army but could not achieve anything. When all this failed now the US has come out directly, right in front, to attack Syria and our military bases with missiles.

They want to destroy our Army. Both the US and Israel are behind all this. They are supporting all the terror groups to fight our government and our Army. They are with the Salafists, with the Islamic State. They are not fighting the terrorists, the Syrian Army is.

Q. So they are doing this despite the consequences? There could be a largescale war?

A. Yes Trump maybe wants to prove he is a strong man. And to tell Russia and China that he does not need to respect or follow any international law.The intention is clearly to pressure Syria, to make us fall in line with their policies or to change the regime and to bring in a government of the extremists and terrorists.

Well we will not surrender our sovereignty , we will fight till the very end.

Q. How much damage was the US able to inflict on your Army with these missiles?

A.The fired 80 missiles. 36 disappeared, I don’t know how! With the others they killed 10 persons, of these six were civilians as they hit bases near a civilian village. They hit our military airports. But we are fighting strong.

Q. So this has made the situation much worse, what happens now?

A. The situation in the Middle East is now very dangerous. Cannot say where it will go. We have full confidence in our allies---Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, other countries. But yes it is now very dangerous in the Middle East…

Q World War 3?

A. Maybe they will talk and come to some understanding, it is very difficult, very dangerous..

But let me repeat, our government was about to defeat the Islamic State. We were on the verge of it so how and why would we use chemical weapons? What is the justification? How will it help us? We don’t have chemical weapons, let this be for the record, and we will never use them against our people.