DAMASCUS (AFP) – Syrian media accused Arab governments Tuesday of giving Washington prior agreement for military action against militants, with one daily calling for Damascus to form an alternative alliance with Moscow and Tehran.
The commentary comes ahead of talks in Saudi Arabia on Thursday between Secretary of State John Kerry and US regional allies on joint action to tackle the threat posed by the Islamic State group in both Syria and Iraq.
“Washington, which used the false pretext of weapons of mass destruction to enter the region militarily in 2003 and draw new geopolitical lines… is returning today under a new false pretext, the fight against terrorism,” said the Al-Baath newspaper, mouthpiece of Syria’s ruling party. “The Arabs meanwhile, are absent from every decision and are playing secondary roles,” it added.
The Baath party daily was referring to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 in which notoriously the alleged chemical and biological weapons that were used to justify the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime were never found.
Kerry is set to meet foreign ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and the six Gulf Arab states in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
The talks are part of US efforts to build a coalition to tackle IS, which has seized large tracts of territory in both Syria and Iraq, and carried out abuses including the decapitation of Syrians, Iraqis and two American journalists.
On Sunday, the Arab League pledged to take “necessary measures” to confront IS, and said it was ready for “international cooperation on all fronts”.
But Syria, and its ally Iran, will not be present at the talks in Saudi Arabia, and Damascus fears efforts to tackle IS will involve air strikes on its territory without its permission.
State-run newspaper Al-Thawra warned: “The United States is setting the stage to bring new wars to the region. Its local partners are ready to carry out its orders without even knowing the details of the American plan.”
Government daily Tishrin questioned why Kerry and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel were coming to the region “when the Arab League has already given its prior agreement for a new war in the region organised by the United States”.
A newspaper close to the regime called for the formation of an alternative “Russian-Iranian-Syrian coalition” against the militants to that being put together by Washington.
“Western and regional governments are excluding the nations that really want to fight terrorism,” it said, charging that the US-led coalition included nations that “support terrorism financially, military and logistically”.
Damascus considers all rebel groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad “terrorists” and has long accused the rebels’ supporters, particularly Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, of funding “terror”.