Updated Sept. 9, 8:43 a.m.
The White House dismissed comments Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made to CBS’ Charlie Rose that he felt “remorse” over the chemical weapons attack that killed more than a thousand people in August while also denying that he had any involvement with the attack.
“We were not in the area where the alleged chemical attack happened,” Assad said. “We’re not sure that anything happened…Our soldiers in another area were attacked chemically. They went to the hospital as causalities.”
“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,” said Bernadette Meehan, deputy spokesperson at the National Security Council, to NBC News.
In the interview, according to Rose, Assad said he felt “some responsibility” for the attack, and that he refused to answer whether his regime has access to other chemical weapons. Rose also said that Assad brought up America’s checkered history in the region as reason to doubt the wisdom of Obama’s proposed course of action.
“He had a message to the American people,” Rose said on Sunday, “that it had not been a good experience for them to get involved in the Middle East in wars and conflicts.”
In a clip of the interview released Monday, Assad said the United States should “expect everything” in terms of retaliation if the U.S. military goes through with a strike on Syria. “Expect every action,” he said. Pressed by Rose if that would include chemical warfare, Assad said, “It could happen. I don’t know. I’m not a fortune teller,” and seemed to suggest other factions, not the Syrian government, would be responsible. “The government is not the only player in this region,” he said.
The full interview is set to air Monday night on PBS, the same day that President Obama is scheduled to give several network interviews on the developing situation in Syria. Obama will also address the nation from the White House Tuesday night.
Ahead of the president’s address, the Obama administration dispatched Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff, to do the Sunday morning talk show rounds. Attempting to dispel fears that striking against Syria would devolve into a second Iraq war, McDonough emphasized that the president proposes a tactical strike, not an invasion.
“We have a very narrow issue here, which is the use of dastardly weapons,” McDonough said on Meet the Press.
But both Republicans and Democrats in Congress remain skeptical that a Tomahawk strike could either destabilize or deter Assad from using chemical weapons.
“We were at war in Iraq, we were at war in Afghanistan, how about coming home and addressing the crisis facing the American people,” Vermont’s Independent Senator Bernie Sanders said Sunday on Weekends with Alex Witt.
“If we want to deal with a crisis, let’s deal with unemployment, let’s deal with health care, lets deal with education. We have enough on our own hands,” he said.