Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said if President Barack Obama initiates military strikes on Syria the U.S. should “expect every action” in retaliation.
“There are going to be repercussions,” Assad said in an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS’s “This Morning” program, an excerpt of which was aired this morning.
“You should expect everything,” Assad said. “This war is against the interests of the United States.”
The U.S. president makes his case for military intervention in an address to the nation scheduled for 9 p.m. Washington time tomorrow.
Lawmakers were returning to Washington today after a five-week recess. The Senate is set to vote on a use-of-force resolution this week, followed by a vote later in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who has spent days trying to collect international support for a U.S. military action in Syria, said in London today that any strike would be an “unbelievably small, limited” action, but enough to halt Syria’s use of chemical weapons.
“We’re not talking about war, we’re not going to war,” Kerry said in a news conference concluding a three-day mission to Europe. He spoke of a “limited, very targeted, very short-term effort.”
Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security director, said the U.S. “has no expectation” that Assad will change and will instead continue to ignore appeals from the international community on chemical weapons.
“We’ve tried diplomacy, we’ve tried sanctions, we tried negotiations,” Rhodes said on MSNBC. “That has not deterred him from using those weapons.”
Obama is confronting opposition from the U.S. public.
A CNN/ORC poll out today showed 59 percent of those surveyed oppose limited military action in Syria, with 39 percent in favor and 2 percent with no opinion.
The telephone poll of 1,022 American adults taken Sept. 6-8 has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
In the CBS interview, Assad was asked whether any Syrian retaliation against the U.S. or its allies would involve chemical weapons.
Assad said “it could happen, I don’t know. I’m not a fortune teller to tell you what’s going to happen.”
Assad said that if the U.S. attacks, it should expect “repercussions somewhere else, in different forms,” and such responses could both “direct and indirect.” He didn’t elaborate on exactly what that meant.
In the CBS interview taped in Damascus, Assad said other elements besides the Syrian government may respond. “You have different parties, you have different factions, you have different ideology.”
The interview will be broadcast in its entirety tonight on “The Charlie Rose Show” on PBS.