CBS News’s Charlie Rose said that after he interviewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Assad told him he would be open to allowing international monitors to control his chemical weapons stockpile, of which he denies having, in order to stave off an American-led attack.
The contours of the plan have been passed around since Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday gave Assad the ultimatum of either giving up his chemical weapons, for face a U.S. strike. The Russians picked up on the plan, and Syria’s foreign minister has reportedly accepted it.
Rose, who recently sat down with Assad in a lengthy interview, said the Syrian president told him after the interview took place that he would “consider it as a good idea.”
“[Assad] seemed to open the door to me to the possibility that something could be arranged to prevent that kind of strike that is anticipated, albeit the fact that he had said throughout the interview ‘I don’t have chemical weapons,'” Rose told WCBS.
In the interview, Assad made a number of astonishing statements. He admitted that his forces had bombarded the area of the recent chemical attack after it had taken place, but denied it was meant to cover up any evidence. “How could bombardment cover the evidence? It technically doesn’t work. … This is stupid to be saying. This is very stupid,” Assad told Rose.
And while Assad denied that his forces even have chemical weapons and said “we are against any WMD,” he seemed to suggest that their use could be justified in certain circumstances. “You use it when you’re in a desperate situation,” Assad said, trying to explain that his forces could not have possibly launched the attack because they aren’t in a desperate situation.
Assad later argued that he and his forces weren’t responsible for the Aug. 21 chemical attack just outside Damascus, claiming that the rebels blew up their own chemical weapons stockpile “by mistake.”
“They have stockpiles, and they exploded because of the bombardment,” he said. “What if they used the missile by coincidence, attacked themselves by mistake?” Watch the clips from the interview:
While the Obama administration has repeatedly said that it believes “with high confidence” that Assad’s regime was responsible for the attack, outside groups are starting to come to the same conclusion. Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday that “[a]vailable evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government forces were responsible for chemical weapons attacks on two Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013.”
“The evidence concerning the type of rockets and launchers used in these attacks strongly suggests that these are weapon systems known and documented to be only in the possession of, and used by, Syrian government armed forces,” Human Rights Watch said.
Meanwhile, in response to the Kerry-Russian plan, the House and Senate are delaying their respective votes on resolutions authorizing President Obama to attack Syria in response to the alleged chemical weapons use. Politico reports that a group of Senators have offered a plan that “would call for the United Nations to pass a resolution asserting that Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria used chemical weapons in the country’s ongoing civil war. A UN team would be required to remove the chemical weapons within a specified timeframe. If the weapons were unable to be removed within that timetable, then the United States would be authorized to use military force against the country, the source said Tuesday. The timeline is still being hammered out by the group.”
Obama faces an uphill battle in getting support for an attack. He acknowledged in an interview on Monday that the vote might not go his way, and he wouldn’t say what he would do in that scenario. “I think it’s fair to say that I haven’t decided” on a next step if Congress votes down the authorization, he said.