Syrian President Bashar Assad said Monday that Americans that they should “expect everything” in response to a U.S. military strike on his country, a declaration that many viewed as a chilling sign his regime could rely on allies like Iran and Hezbollah and does not feel hamstrung by its own limitations.
“The government is not the only player in this region,” he told CBS’ Charlie Rose, noting the numerous factions and ideologies in the Middle East.
Mr. Assad declined to elaborate on whether retaliatory attacks would be limited to U.S. bases in the Middle East or carried out only by his government, nor did he rule out the possibility of chemical warfare.
“That depends if the rebels or the terrorists in this region or any other group have it, it could happen, I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not [a] fortune teller — to tell you what’s going to happen.”
He said President Obama has no evidence his regime used chemical weapons on his people and that Mr. Obama is following in the footsteps of former President George W. Bush.
Mr. Assad, speaking in English, told Mr. Rose repeatedly that Mr. Obama has not presented any evidence his regime is responsible for the attack near Damascus on Aug. 21.
“He didn’t present it because he doesn’t have [it]. … Nothing has been presented so far,” Mr. Assad said.
The Obama administration and Secretary of State John Kerry insist they have ample evidence the Syrian government used sarin gas in the attack and killed more than 1,400 Syrian civilians.
Mr. Assad said it unfair to accept the White House’s assertions wholesale while disregarding what he says. Drawing parallels with the Iraq War, Mr. Assad said he is “disappointed” that Mr. Obama is, in his view, following Mr. Bush’s doctrine by trying to intervene in the region without firm proof of chemical weapons.
Mr. Assad said the majority of Americans don’t want to engage in war, anywhere, and the Congress is supposed to represent their constituents’ interests.
“This war is against the interests of the United States,” Mr. Assad said.
He said American weaponry used in his country could land in the hands of the al Qaeda organization that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.