Diplomat asks Japan to not support action in Syria
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A Tokyo-based Syrian diplomat on Friday beseeched Japan to “put pressure” on the United States to drop plans for a military strike against Syria’s regime.
A strike would be “not just against our nation, but against the whole world,” said Warif Halabi, the chargé d’affairs at the Syrian Embassy in Tokyo, during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.
Japan should not support the U.S. because its single-minded goal is to bring down the existing Syrian government, she said.
Halabi, who assumed the post only a month ago, was educated in the U.S. and Great Britain. She joined Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1991.
She told the gathered reporters that she was at the club “to seek your support” against potential U.S. strikes.
President Barack Obama has been trying to convince Congress and allies that the strikes are necessary to draw a “red line” in regard to the use of chemical weapons. The administration says it has evidence that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on about 1,400 people on Aug. 21 near Damascus.
Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Capitol Hill this week in an attempt to persuade lawmakers to authorize the strikes.
“In no way and in no means did our government use chemical weapons against our people,” Halabi said when directly asked about allegations that President Bashar Assad’s regime used them against rebel forces. “With full confidence I can swear by God that our government did not use chemical weapons and we never used chemical weapons against our people.”
She said that chemical weapons have been brought across the Syrian border by the rebels. Further, she said that the rebels have adapted chemicals pilfered by them from factories for use as weapons.
Halabi said that Syria had long requested help from the United Nations for assistance in fighting rebel forces, which she said were influenced — if not driven — by terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida.
“We are facing a terrorist group, and the international community has a responsibility to assist us,” she said. “They did nothing. We want you to recognize what these terrorist groups are doing in Syria and hold them accountable.”
Numerous times she equated a U.S. military attack on Syria with those on Iraq and Libya. She said that in the case of Iraq the intelligence used by the U.S. to justify an attack was faulty – either through error or deception. She described the aftermath of America’s military strikes in Libya as leading to a destabilized country.
“After Iraq and Libya, it is not enough to just say you have evidence,” she said.