Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to deny that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people, says he is fully committed to handing over Syrian chemical weapons to international control, and that he could provide a list of his chemical weapons stockpile “tomorrow,” as Russia and the United States said they would expect him to do under their agreement reached last weekend.
But perhaps the most notable thing about Assad’s latest interview with a Western journalist, this time with Fox News’ Greg Palkot and former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, was its surreal vibe.
Despite the certainties of the United States and other Western countries, and the points raised by his interviewers, Assad repeatedly beat back at the notion that the August attack outside Damascus was perpetrated by his regime. And he appeared fully convinced of all he was telling the reporter and the former liberal firebrand, making for a strange and mildly confrontational window into the Syrian president’s message.
Here were the oddest moments:
- Anyone can be president of Syria. Asked whether Syria holds free elections, the president said Syria will hold free elections next year. Asked whether someone else could be president of Syria, he replied, “Of course, anyone can.”
- What about the L.A. riots? Assad pointed out that America has suppressed an uprising, too – in L.A. in 1992, after the Rodney King verdict. “What did you do in Los Angeles in the ’90s when you have rebels? Didn’t you send your army? You did.”
- Is it a civil war? “Civil war starts from society, starts from within,” Assad, 48, said, while alleging that most of Syria’s opposition forces are jihadists who have poured in from other countries.
- Advice for Obama. Asked what he would tell President Obama, Assad said the U.S. president should “listen to your people” and follow “the common sense of your people. That’s enough.”
- No one has verified the photos and videos of the chemical attack outside Damascus, Assad said. “No one has verified the credibility of the pictures or the video.”
- Mentions cannibal rebel. After reports that a Syrian rebel ate the heart of a government soldier, Assad made mention of that in arguing that his army is defending civilians. “The army should defend the civilians, not the opposite. You cannot leave the terrorists free, killing the people, assassinating the people, beheading the people and eating their hearts.”
- Destroying chemical weapons would cost $1 billion. That was the estimate Assad gave, asking “if the American government is willing to pay” to transport Syria’s chemical weapons to the United States for destruction, an unlikely outcome, perhaps, given that the weapons could be destroyed in Syria or a neighboring country.