Syrian President Bassar al-Assad told interviewer Charlie Rose that the United States, Israel and other American allies can expect to be hit with chemical weapons if President Barack Obama carries out his threat to attack.
Assad, who has denied that his regime used chemical weapons despite widespread evidence to the contrary, implied that Iran and Hezbollah or rebels could use chemical weapons to repel a military strike.
“It could happen…if the rebels or the terrorists in this region or any other group have” chemical weapons, he explained.
The United States “should expect everything, not necessarily from the government,” if the United States attacks, he said. Assad added that Syria is “not the only player in the region” and that “you have different parties, you have different factions, you have different ideology.”
It would only take one or two deranged Al Qaeda terrorists, and not necessarily Assad’s soldiers, to use an American attack as an excuse to try to be the Great Arab hero who tried to destroy Israel with a “dirty bomb” or poison gas.
However, based on Assad’s previous actions and statements during the civil war, he used the interview to prepare the groundwork to use chemical weapons and blame others for it.
Rose is one of the few journalists allowed into the country and to meet Assad, dispelling rumors that he is hiding underground. Rose described Assad as “remarkably calm.”
As for the chemical attack on Syrian civilians last month, Assadcontinued to maintain a “What, me?” attitude in the interview, which will be aired in full on Rose’s PBS show Monday evening after excerpts were viewed Monday morning on CBS.
“Our soldiers, in another area, were attacked chemically,” Assad maintained. “But in the area where they say the government used chemical weapons, we only have video, pictures and allegations. We were not there, our forces, our police, our institutions, don’t exist.
“How can you talk about what happened if you don’t have evidence?”
While Assad was warning of a chemical attack, an Israeli official who has been briefed by Washington told Reuters that the Obama administration would give Israel only “hours” notice before attacking Syria.
That could mean two hours or 10 years. In either case, that is enough to rev up the F-16 engines but not enough to mobile troops.
Former Defense Ministry top honcho Amos Gilad, who has sounded suspiciously dovish and often has been dead wrong since leaving office, said in a speech at a counterterrorism center that Israel is totally out of the picture concerning if and when President Obama orders an attack.
There also is the possibility that the unidentified Israeli official who spoke with Reuters simply is lying and that the United States and Israel are cooperating closely towards a military strike.
If the Obama administration were not to give Israel enough notice to prepare for an attack, then Washington would have to take on the job of answering a lot of questions if Israeli civilians end up being killed.
It also is no secret that the American government relies heavily on Israel for intelligence information in the Middle East in general and in Syria specifically. Israel, and not the United States, has the human resources to plant dark-skinned Arabic-speaking agents in Syria.
Regardless of whether Israel will have no notice or plenty of notice before an American attack, President Obama already has given the world a least a couple of weeks to prepare for it.
The results have been panic. Russia has sent warships to the region and has threatened that Obama is laying with fire that will erupt into a regional war, or not a world war. Israel has deployed a battery of the anti-missile Iron Dome system around Jerusalem, and Turkey has placed anti-aircraft batteries along its southern border with Syria.
The rhetoric is great for headlines, and no one will say that Syria will throw out the welcome mat for an American attack.
But so far, Obama has one powerful diplomatic weapon on his side: Russia and Syria bear the burden to prove that the Assad regime did not deploy chemical weapons. No one believes Assad’s’ denials accept, perhaps, his properly British educated wife.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has given Assad the “exit option” of turning over chemical weapons in a week to the international community in return for President Obama’s pushing the “stop” button.