Syria Crisis: Assad Remains Defiant, Opposition Disappointed

PHOTO: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Tehran, Iran, Aug. 19, 2009.
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The morning after President Obama announced that he would seek Congressional authorization before taking military action against Syria, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remained defiant, saying he stands ready "to confront any foreign aggression"

"U.S. threats will not move Syria away from its principle of fighting terror supported by some western and regional countries," Assad told an Iranian official during a meeting in Damascus today.

"Syria is able to confront any foreign aggression," he added.

According to Iran's semi-official news outlet FARS, Assad met with a senior Iranian delegation in the capital to discuss "issues of mutual interest as well as the latest developments in crisis-hit Syria."

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Syria's Deputy Prime Minister Qadr Jamil echoed Assad, saying "The Syrian army's readiness is what warded off U.S. aggression against Syria," according to Press TV.

Syrian state TV trumpeted, "Syria Confronts the Aggressors," reporting that Obama had called off the attack because he could not prove the allegations that Assad's forces had used chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, Al-Thawra, a Syrian state-run newspaper close to the regime described Obama's decision as "the start of the historic American retreat."

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"Whether the Congress lights the red or green light for an aggression, and whether the prospects of war have been enhanced or faded, President Obama has announced yesterday, by prevaricating or hinting, the start of the historic American retreat," Al-Thawra wrote on Sunday's front page.

Regime loyalists embraced a shared sense of victory today, if only fleeting. And for Damascus residents, a sigh of relief and a return to normal life amid the constant sound of shelling in the suburbs.

"Back to work as usual as government pounds Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh since early AM after several days of relative calm. Woke us up," NYkerinDamascus, a self-described New Yorker in Syria tweeted.

She added, "wondering what to do w all those provisions we bought now that the 'imminent strike' might be a while."

Crushing Disappointment

Most Syrian rebels did not have access to the live broadcast of Obama's speech on Syrian state TV but as the headline trickled out of the capital, crushing disappointment set in.

"The Syrian people feel more alone now than ever," Mouaz Mustafa, executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force told ABC News. "This is absolutely a blow to many in the opposition on the ground who've suffered the brunt of the chemical attacks."

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ABC News' fixer in northern Syria reports that many Free Syrian Army (FSA) leaders now doubt that Obama will take action at all. Just more U.S. talk, they told ABC News, same old stories.

Col. Abdulbasit Sa'ad al-Dein, a FSA leader based in Aleppo pleaded for military intervention.

"Military intervention is in the interest of the Syrian people - we need this to solve the Syrian crisis," he told USA Today. "We need direct strikes on significant regime targets such as military installations ... to save civilian lives."

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Syrian activists at home and abroad all agree civilians will pay the price for Obama's decision, but remain deeply divided on the path forward. Beirut-based Syrian activist Shakeeb Al-Jabri told ABC News he was "very disappointed" over Obama's decision.

Like the FSA commanders, many activists do not expect any action from the U.S. while others expect action after Congress returns to Washington.

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