The U.S. State Department said today that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appeared “utterly disconnected” from reality in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Barbara Walters in which he denied any responsibility for the violent response to the uprising in his country.
“Just from what happened or what took place in the interview, he appeared utterly disconnected with the reality that’s going on in his country and the brutal repression that’s being carried out against the Syrian people. It’s either disconnection, disregard or, as he said, crazy. I don’t know,” deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
In the interview Assad said he had not ordered the bloody crackdown on protesters that the United Nations says has exceeded 4,000 people.
“We don’t kill our people, nobody kill. No government in the world kill its people, unless it’s led by crazy person. For me, as president, I became president because of the public support. It’s impossible for anyone – in this state, to give order to kill people,” Assad said.
When confronted with the death toll released by the UN, Assad questioned the world body’s credibility.
Asked if the United States believes Assad gave the orders to fire on protestors, the State Department seemed to say it isn’t sure.
“It either says that he’s completely lost any power that he — that he had within Syria, that he’s simply a tool or that he’s completely disconnected with reality. It’s hard for us to say but, you know, what we insist is that he has lost all credibility in the eyes of his people and needs to step down,” Toner said.
“He’s at least trying to create an image of himself as someone who’s not pulling the levers here. But what is very clear is that, you know, the Syrian security apparatus is carrying out this — a clear campaign against peaceful protesters. And, you know, that blame or responsibility or accountability with that ultimately rests on Assad and his cronies,” he added.
The State Department also said Assad’s claims were another reason he should allow international human rights monitors in the country to witness firsthand what is going on.
During the interview, President Assad claimed he would allow an ABC News reporter to go anywhere in the country to see for himself. When ABC’s Alex Marquardt went out, however, he found his movements closely watched and restricted by both uniformed and plainclothes security officers. Read more of his report here.