Syrian president says West is only seeking to strip him of his chemical weapons in order to tip balance of power in Jerusalem’s favor
TIMES OF ISRAEL
Syria has deterrent weapons, more advanced than anything in its chemical arsenal, that could blindside Israel in mere moments, Syrian President Bashar Assad claimed Thursday.
“Originally, we produced chemical weapons in the 1980s as a deterrent to Israel’s nuclear capabilities,” Assad said in an interview with the Hezbollah-affiliated, Lebanon-based Al-Akhbar newspaper, adding that “today, we have weapons that are far more important and sophisticated and that can blindside Israel in the blink of an eye.”
The Syrian president also charged that the West was not really concerned with stripping Syria of its weapons stockpile in order to safeguard the country’s civilians but, rather, that its goal was to tip the balance of power in the Middle East in Israel’s favor.
“They wanted to change the balance of power to protect Israel, but we turned the table on them and now the ball is in their court,” said Assad.
Referring to his regime’s chemical weapons arsenal, which, under a US-Russian agreement reached earlier this month, is due to be destroyed by mid-2014, Assad said that his stockpile, of about 1,000 tons, is a burden and will be costly and time-consuming to dispose of.
The Syrian president went on to mock President Barack Obama as “hesitant” and “weak.” He called the US administration’s handling of the threat to attack Syria — in response to the regime’s alleged chemical attack in Damascus on August 21 that killed over 1,400 people according to US officials — an “embarrassment.”
“The steps we’ve taken embarrassed the US government in the eyes of the American and European publics. Obama lost in his own home [turf]. where [he] lost the ability to maneuver internally,” Assad added.
In a previous interview with Venezuelan television, the Syrian president accused the Obama administration of lying to US citizens by claiming it had proof that Assad’s government was responsible for the August 21 gas attack.
Assad told Al-Akhbar that the level of Syrian cooperation and coordination with Russia was “unprecedented” and that should a US attack on Syria occur — a possibility he did not rule out — he had Moscow’s assurances that Russian forces would be sent to back the regime.
“We have a full Russian pledges that Russian troops will enter in any war waged against Syria,” he was quoted as saying.
Russia has remained a staunch ally of the Assad regime throughout the two-and-a half-year civil war, blocking any meaningful UN Security Council resolutions and cautioning the US against military action.
The Russians, like Assad, insist Syrian rebels were responsible for the August 21 attack.
UN inspectors returned to Syria on Wednesday to continue investigating three incidents of suspected chemical weapons use this year.