Syria crisis: Assad warns US it will ‘pay the price’ if threatened missile strikes happen

In first American TV interview for two years, Syrian dictator tells America: ‘You will pay the price if you are not wise with dealing with terrorists’

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remained defiant in the face of threats of missile strikes today, telling an American television network that the US would “pay the price” for any attack.

“If you strike somewhere, you have to expect the repercussions somewhere else,” he said.

The comments came in a rare interview for the CBS network with the veteran journalist Charlie Rose, extracts of which were released today. It will be broadcast in full in America tonight.

The interview showed the embattled Syrian leader refuting American intelligence reports that his regime used chemical weapons nearly three weeks ago; and giving notice that strikes against his country would bring retaliation that might in part come in the form of terrorist action.

His reference to a possible terrorist backlash against America and its interests was calculated in part to stir fear in ordinary Americans on the eve of the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by al-Qa’ida in New York.

“You should expect everything,” he told Rose. “It’s not only the government that’s the only player in the 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.” 

He added: “You are going to pay the price if you are not wise with dealing with terrorists.”

Assad, who has accused the rebels of the poison gas attack, added that repercussions “may take different forms,” including “direct and indirect” effects.

Indirect effects could include “instability and the spread of terrorism all over the region that will influence the West directly,” Assad said.

He suggested there could be repercussions against the United States from other countries or groups such as Iran or Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Asked if he was making a threat of a direct military response to any such attack, Assad was vague, saying at one point, “I am not [a] fortune teller to tell you what’s going to happen.”

When Rose asked if chemical warfare could be one repercussion from a US intervention in Syria, Assad told him: “That depends if the rebels or the terrorists in this region or any other group have it. It could happen.”

He also repeatedly rejected the idea that there is any evidence linking his government to the 21 August attack, claiming his forces were not in the area. “Our soldiers in another area were attacked chemically,” he said.” “... 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.”

He also said Washington’s credibility is “at an all-time low.” And he told CBS the Syrian government opposes the use of chemical weapons. “We are against any WMD, any weapons of mass destruction whether chemical or nuclear,” he said.

Asked if he considers chemical warfare equivalent to nuclear warfare, Assad said: “I don’t know. We haven’t tried either.”

To US President Barack Obama, Assad said: “I will tell him very simply, ‘Present what you have as evidence ... to the public. Be transparent.’”

The remarks drew an instant rebuff from the White House. “It doesn’t surprise us that someone who would kill thousands of his own people, including hundreds of children with poison gas, would also lie about it,” spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.

Presidential move: CBS goes far for Assad

In agreeing to be interviewed for American television by the veteran US broadcaster Charlie Rose, Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad knew his remarks would gain maximum exposure as the Western powers grapple over what to do over the alleged chemical weapons attack against his own people.

It was also a journalistic coup for Rose and the CBS network.

According to The New York Times the interview was arranged at the last minute, although David Rhodes, president of CBS News said: “Charlie has been working on this for a long time.”

It took place on Sunday in the Presidential Palace in Damascus. Pictures of the meeting show the polished surroundings of power and civilisation.

Civil war – and chemical warfare – seem a world away.

Rose travelled to Syria with Jeffrey Fager, the chairman of CBS News and producer of 60 Minutes.

They flew to Lebanon and then drove to Damascus. “Charlie got more out of our hour with President Assad than could be expected. It is a tough, informative and fascinating interview,” Mr Fager told the newspaper.

“The security getting to him was intense, but we found Assad to be surprisingly relaxed and confident. He knows an attack could be coming and it seemed like he was trying hard in the interview to prevent it from happening.”

Andrew Johnson

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?