CBS News teased an exclusive interview with Bashar al-Assad conducted by Charlie Rose yesterday, in which the Syrian dictator promises to respond to any attack from the United States. Assad told Rose that an attack on his armed forces would tip the civil war in favor of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, and scoffed at John Kerry’s assertion that the US has evidence that the regime conducted the chemical-weapons attack:
Syria’s President Bashar Assad denied his regime’s use of chemical weapons in a wide-ranging interview with CBS News’ Charlie Rose. Assad issued a chilling warning for the U.S. to “expect everything” in response to a potential strike on Syria and repeatedly told Rose the Obama administration lacks irrefutable evidence to back up charges of chemical weapons use.
Assad says his own forces have been attacked by chemical weapons:
“Our soldiers in another area were attacked chemically, our soldiers. They went to the hospital, as casualties because of chemical weapons. But in the area where they said the government used chemical weapons, we only had video and we only have pictures and allegations. We’re not there. Our forces — our police, our institutions don’t exist. How can you talk about what happened if you don’t have evidences? We’re not like the American administration. We’re not social media administration or government. We are the government that deals with reality.”
The dictator also compared Kerry to Colin Powell:
“He presented his confidence and he presented his convictions,” Assad said of Kerry. “It’s not about confidence, it’s about evidence. The United– sorry, the Russians have completely opposite evidence that the missiles were thrown from area where the rebels controlled. That reminds me — about what Kerry said — about the big lie that Colin Powell said in front of the world on satellites about the W.M.D. in Iraq before going to war when he said, ‘This is our evidence.’ Actually, he gave false evidence. In this case, Kerry didn’t even present any evidence. He talks, ‘we have evidence,’ and he didn’t present anything, not yet. Nothing so far… not a single shred of evidence.”
The administration has been presenting its evidence on Capitol Hill, which means they have significantly more than a shred. However, it’s not exactly a convincing case from all accounts, even though the likeliest explanation for any use of chemical weapons is that it came from the regime, which is known to have stockpiles of it. Reuters reported last night that the White House presentations appear to be backfiring as a result:
White House efforts to convince the U.S. Congress to back military action against Syria are not only failing, they seem to be stiffening the opposition.
That was the assessment on Sunday, not of an opponent but of an early and ardent Republican supporter of Obama’s plan for attacking Syria, the influential Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, Mike Rogers.
Rogers told CBS’s “Face the Nation” the White House had made a “confusing mess” of the Syria issue. Now, he said, “I’m skeptical myself.”
No matter what, Assad will do nothing but deny, paint his enemies in the worst possible light, and hope to use American media to bolster anti-war sentiment. It’s important to keep that context in mind, but that doesn’t mean we have an interest in going to war either. Moammar Qaddafi was as bad if not worse than Assad, and he could have made the same claims — and in the end, he would have been proven correct, too. The collapse of the Syrian regime now would only create a failed state that would benefit al-Qaeda and its affiliates and allies most.
John Miller noted this with Rose:
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) September 9, 2013
That goes both ways.