Assad: No Evidence of Chemical Weapons
In his only on-camera interview since President Obama called for Congress to authorize military intervention in Syria, Bashar al-Assad told CBS’s Charlie Rose that there is “not a single shred of evidence” that his regime used chemical weapons. The Syrian president also compared Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertions to “the big lie that Colin Powell said” about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction before the U.S. invasion there.
Kerry: The Evidence Is There
Meanwhile, speaking Monday in London, Kerry reiterated that there is intelligence information that convinced the Obama administration that Assad perpetrated chemical attacks.
Assad: ‘Killing Is Killing’
In his interview, Rose asked Assad if he considered “chemical warfare equivalent to nuclear warfare,” which prompted a chuckle from the previously stone-faced Syrian president. “I don’t know, we haven’t tried either,” he said. Assad also stated that “we are against any WMD...whether chemical or nuclear,” saying that they were morally equivalent.
Kerry: ‘Keep Your Hands Off Chemical Weapons’
Kerry admitted that “the end to the conflict in Syria requires a political solution,” saying there’s no ultimate military answer. But if Assad feels like he can use chemical warfare “with impunity,” Kerry said, “he will never come to a negotiating table.” Kerry also said that Syria could potentially forestall American strikes by handing over its chemical weapons—a position Russia supports.
Assad: U.S. Should Expect Retaliation
When asked how he would respond to an American airstrike, Assad gave a vague but sinister answer about “repercussions.” “Everything is on the brink of explosion,” said Assad. “You have to expect everything.”
GRAPHIC: Senate Video of Alleged Attacks
In an ostensible attempt to influence opinion, the Senate intelligence community recently released footage of Assad’s alleged chemical warfare. The haunting video shows apparent victims, including children, convulsing and foaming at the mouth.
Would Assad Give Up Chemical Weapons?
As Congress debates the merits of a strike on Syria, Rose asked Assad if he would surrender Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons to prevent an outside intervention. “You always imply that we have chemical weapons,” Assad replied with a small laugh. He claimed that the country would “do anything to prevent the region from having another crazy war” and refused to limit the scope of reference to just him and Syria, saying it is “part of a whole.” Throughout the interview, he repeatedly refused to say whether his regime has chemical weapons, as is is widely thought.
What Red Line?
One might think the point of the “red line” was for indisputable clarity, but at its mention, Assad looked puzzled for a moment. “What red line?” he asked when Rose noted the use of chemical weapons has been called the last straw by President Obama. “Who drew it?” But Assad was just making a point: that the red line was drawn by Obama and he doesn’t have the jurisdiction to draw that for other countries. American credibility, he later added, is at an all-time low. “We don’t see red lines. It’s political red lines,” Assad said.
Assad: I Have Public Support
Asked if he watched the Arab Spring revolutions in the region and made a vow to stay put, the Syrian president assured Rose he still has the support of his people: “If you have public support in any circumstances you have to stay.” Rose noted the dubious notion of public support, but Assad asserted that he wouldn’t still be in office after 2 1/2 years of warfare if he had no support. “I’m either superhuman or superman, which is the not case.” Leaving while he’s still supported by the country, Assad said, would be “treason.” But when Rose asked how he measures public support, the Syrian president offered no clear answer.