CREDIT: CBS News
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made his case to CBS News’s Charlie Rose in an interview that aired on Monday against an American-led military strike on his country in response to his government’s alleged chemical weapons use.
Assad charged that the United States and the international community have no evidence that forces linked to his government used chemical weapons. He later seemed to try to push Congress toward voting against a resolution to give President Obama authorization to attack Syria, arguing, as some like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) have, that any U.S.-led military action against the Syrian government would help al Qaeda:
ASSAD: I think the most important part of this now is, let’s say the American people. But the polls show that the majority now don’t want a war anywhere, not only against Syria. But the Congress is going to vote about this in a few days. And I think the Congress is elected by the people and represent the people and work for their interests.
The first question that they should ask themself, what do wars give America? Things we have (UNINTEL) till now, nothing. No political gain, no economic gain, no good reputation. United States is at all-time, credibility is at all-time low. So this war is against the interests of the United States. Why?
First of all, because this is the war that is going to support Al Qaeda and the same people that kill Americans in the 11 of September. The second thing that we all want to tell to the Congress, that they should ask and that what we expect, we expect them to ask this administration about the evidence that they have regarding the chemical story and the allegations that they presented.
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on Sunday that the intelligence on whether Assad’s forces were responsible for the attack isn’t in dispute. “Every member of Congress I’ve spoken to accepts the intelligence that they carried out this attack,” he said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “And so what we need now is to communicate very clearly what is expected of him. And what is expected of him is to live up to the prohibition now, almost a hundred years old, against using these dastardly weapons to gas women and children.”
Assad also said in the CBS interview that the Obama administration is no different from the Bush era. “They are operating the same doctrine with different accessories,” he claimed.
The Syrian president also said the U.S. and its allies should expect some kind of retaliation to an attack and suggested it might be carried out by non-state Syrian allies like Hezbollah. “You should expect everything. Not necessarily from the government. It’s not only the government are not the only player in this region. You have different parties, you have different factions, you have different ideology. You have everything in this region now. So you have to expect that,” Assad said.
Despite the fact that his forces started the civil war in Syria with its brutal and violent crackdown on peaceful protesters more than two years ago, Assad also later disputed that he’s the aggressor, likening himself to a doctor saving a patient. “A doctor who cut the leg to prevent the patient from the gangrene, if you have to, we don’t call him butcher, we call him doctor. And you– thank you for saving the lives. When you have terrorism, you have a war. When you have a war, you always– you always have innocent lives that could be the victim of any war.”
Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Sunday that the Saudis offered support for an American strike on Syria and during a press conference with Kerry, Qatar’s foreign minister called for foreign intervention “to protect the Syrian people.”
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement on Saturday that the chemical weapons attack in Syria was “blatant violation of international law, a war crime and a crime against humanity” and that the evidence “seems to indicate strong evidence that the Syrian regime is responsible.” The E.U. statement called for action but did not endorse a military strike. Most European countries have said they want some kind of United Nations process to play out and want U.N. weapons experts to report on their findings in Syria, a process that could take weeks, before deciding whether to support an attack.
Meanwhile, Obama is set to make his case to the American people and Congress this week in a series of interviews and speeches. As it stands right now, it appears that the White House has an uphill climb to get Congress on board, or at least the House. According to a ThinkProgress preliminary tally, more than 200 lawmakers in the House are against military action or lean toward not supporting it.