Intervention will be met with reprisals, Assad tells American television viewers
Syrian president insists there is no evidence regime was behind chemical weapons attack
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad responds to a question from broadcaster Charlie Rose Charlie Rose during an interview in Damascus , Syria . Screen grab: AP photo/CBS This Morning
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has hinted at terrorist reprisals against western interests in the event of a US strike against his country, saying he could not rule out that chemical weapons might be used.
In an interview with broadcaster Charlie Rose, Dr Assad insisted there was “not a shred of evidence” that his own government was responsible for the recent chemical attacks inside Syria alleged by the White House, but suggested there could be chilling “repercussions” elsewhere in the region if the US intervened.
“If you strike somewhere, you have to expect repercussions somewhere else,” he said. “It may take different forms, direct and indirect. Direct when governments want to retaliate, and indirect when you are going to have instability and the spread of terrorism over the region that will influence the west directly.”
Excerpts from the interview were released yesterday morning as US president Barack Obama prepared a frantic 48-hour lobbying effort to shift US public opinion in favour of intervention and persuade Congress to authorise military action.
But Dr Assad raised the stakes, with a warning that suggested a US strike would not be the simple one-way matter that the White House claims.
Asked by Mr Rose if there would be revenge attacks against the US, Dr Assad replied: “You should expect everything. Not necessarily through the government. The government is not the only player in this region. You have different parties, you have different factions, you have different ideology. You have everything in this region now.”
Asked if chemical warfare could be one repercussion, Dr Assad added: “That depends if the rebels or the terrorists in this region or any other group have it. It could happen. You are going to pay the price if you are not wise with dealing with terrorists.”
Nevertheless, the Syrian leader continued to deny any responsibility for chemical weapons use inside his country and called on the US administration to make its alleged evidence public.
“It reminds me of the big lie that Colin Powell presented to the United Nations, but in this case [the US secretary of state] Kerry did not present evidence. Not a single shred of evidence,” said Assad.
“[Kerry] uses confidence and conviction, but this is not about confidence, it is about evidence. The Russians have opposite evidence.”
Dr Assad taunted US officials for using public reports of chemical attacks gathered via YouTube and other social media platforms.
“We are not a social media administration; we deal with reality,” he said.
He argued that any US strike on Syria would help the same terrorist groups responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
“Any strike will be a direct support to al-Qaeda offshoots,” said Assad.
In the interview, which was broadcast in full last night, Dr Assad was also asked to respond to those who called him a butcher.
“When you have a doctor who cuts a leg to protect a patient from gangrene, you don’t call him a butcher; you call him a doctor. When you have terrorism, you have a war, and when you have a war then innocent lives will be victims of that war.”
He said it he did not know whether the US would attack.
“The majority [of Americans] don’t want a war – anywhere, not only against Syria,” claimed Dr Assad.
“The US doesn’t obey international law, and tramples over the UN charter, so we have to be ready for anything. But according to the lies that we have been hearing for the last two weeks we have to expect for the worst.”
White House spokesman Ben Rhodes said it would be a “mistake” for Syria to retaliate against any US strikes.
“We don’t think it is in the interests of Assad or anyone else in the region to take action against us,” he said yesterday after the first interview clips aired. – (Guardian service)