A scornful Syria hailed a "historic American retreat" on Sunday, mockingly accusing U.S. President Barack Obama of hesitation and confusion after he delayed a military response to last month's chemical weapons attack near Damascus until after a congressional vote.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said that a possible U.S. military strike will not stop his government from fighting anti-regime insurgents: "Syria ... is capable of confronting any external aggression. The threat of American aggression against Syria will not discourage Syria away from its principles ... or its fight against terrorism supported by some regional and Western countries, first and foremost the United States of America," he was quoted by Syria's state-run media as saying.
"It is clear there was a sense of hesitation and disappointment in what was said by President Barack Obama yesterday. And it is also clear there was a sense of confusion as well," Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said.
"A decision to wage war on Syria is a criminal decision and an incorrect decision. We are confident that we will be victorious," Mekdad said.
Assad remarked that he would also take diplomatic measures against Washington. On Monday, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Security Council President María Cristina Perceval asking the international body to prevent military action against Syria.
"The U.N. Secretary General must show responsibility and prevent all aggression against Syria and try to advance a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria," wrote Ambassador Bashar Jaafari. "We call on the U.N. to fulfill its duty as a safety net and prevent the absurd use of force, which violates international law."
Syria's opposition urged the U.S. Congress to approve military action against Assad, saying any hesitation only embolden his regime: "Dictatorships like Iran and North Korea are watching closely to see how the free world responds to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people. If the free world fails to respond to such an outrageous breach of international norms, dictators around the world will be encouraged in their efforts to follow the example set by Assad," the opposition said in a statement.
"During the past two and half years, the democratic world has offered only condolences and promises while Assad's regime, supported by its allies in Iran and Russia, has been busy killing Syria's democratic hopes," the statement said.
"Any possible military action should be carried out in conjunction with an effort to arm the Free Syrian Army. This will be vital in restraining Assad and ending the killing and chaos he wants to spread throughout the region."
Saudi Arabia told fellow Arab League states on Sunday that opposing international intervention against the Syrian government would only encourage Damascus to use weapons of mass destruction.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told foreign ministers meeting in Cairo that condemnation of Syria over the Aug. 21 poison gas attack, was "not enough" and that opposing international action on the grounds that it was "foreign intervention" was no longer acceptable.
"Any opposition to any international action would only encourage Damascus to move forward with committing its crimes and using all weapons of mass destruction," said Saud al-Faisal. "The time has come to call on the world community to bear its responsibility and take the deterrent measure that puts a halt to the tragedy."
Meanwhile, in a stark departure for the regime's official line, former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani publicly accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its own people.
"The people have been the target of a chemical attack by their own government and now they must also wait for an attack by foreigners," Rafsanjani said, according to the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency.
"Right now America, the Western world along with some of the Arab countries are nearly issuing a clarion call for war in Syria -- may God have mercy on the people of Syria," he said.
Soon after the statement was released, however, it was changed to better fit Tehran's official position, saying only that the people of Syria were "the victims of a chemical attack" and assigning no blame for it.