Syrian President Bashar Assad reportedly warned today of possible retaliation against the United States should the country intervene in his nation’s civil war.
In an interview with CBS’ Charlie Rose, Assad denied the Obama administration’s assertion that he had deployed the lethal nerve gas sarin against his own people, but would not say whether he has access to chemical weapons.
Assad reportedly said he didn’t necessarily expect a U.S. attack but, “there would be — suggested there would be, among people that are aligned with him, some kind of retaliation if a strike was made,” Rose said on “Face the Nation” this morning, adding “[Assad] would not talk about any kind of the nature of the response.”
“He had a message to the American people that it had not been a good experience for them to get involved in the Middle East in wars and conflict in the Middle East. That the result had not been good, and that they should not get involved, and that they should communicate through their Congress and through their leadership in Washington not to authorize a strike,” Rose said.
For weeks the White House has been attempting to rally support from the public and Congress for a punitive strike against the Assad regime, accused of killing 1,429, in an August chemical attack near Damascus. The administration says 426 children were among the dead. But that number pales in comparison to the total dead in Syria’s turmoil, which the United Nations estimates at over 100,000.
Rose said Assad “does accept some of the responsibility” for those killed.
“I asked that very question: ‘Do you feel any remorse?’ He said, ‘Of course I do,’ but it did not come in a way that was sort of deeply felt inside,” Rose said. “It was much more of a calm recitation of anybody who’s a leader of a country would feel terrible about what’s happened to its citizens.”
Central to the administration’s outreach campaign are a series of disturbing videos shown to members of Congress in classified briefings. Obtained by ABC News, the open-sourced clips show scores of adults and children dead or dying from what experts say appear to be chemical weapons, which the administration says Assad’s regime used in the conflict.
Rose told CBS’ Bob Schieffer he showed Assad today’s New York Times story that documents the history of Syria’s nerve gas stockpiles, but Assad reportedly repeated the suggestion that the attack may have been orchestrated by rebels.
“He said, ‘I can’t confirm or deny that we have chemical weapons.’ He did, however, say that in fact, ‘If we do have them — and I’m not going to say yes or no — they’re in centralized control, so no one else has access to them.’” Rose recounted, adding: “The most important thing as he basically says is that, ‘There is no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people. There is no evidence of that.’”
Clips of the interview will be made available on CBS Monday morning and it will be aired in its entirety that night on PBS’ “The Charlie Rose Show.” It comes the same day President Obama himself sits down for one-on-one interviews with the anchors of six networks.
Assad was also reportedly “very concerned” that a U.S. strike would change the balance of power in favor of the rebels in his country, which are known to include extremist groups with links to the al Qaeda terror network. The ambiguity of trust from some of those factions are among the chief concerns brought by critics of a U.S. attack.