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
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Recruitment Genius: Medical & Economic Writer / Consultant

£23000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for a Me...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Beverley James: Accounts Payable

£22,000 - £23,000: Beverley James: Are you looking for the opportunity to work...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower