Syrian President Bashar Al Assad told NBC News President Barack Obama is weak for not following through on his red line to attack him in 2012.
“Only a good president is ruthless,” Assad said in response to a question on the red line, elaborating, “This is the definition. Otherwise, he’s going to be a weak president.” Assad seemed to scorn Obama for fighting Syria “through proxies” rather than direct military intervention, and accused America of being a global “pyromaniac.”
Assad, touting the Russian and Iranian line, continually framed the Syrian civil war as him against radical Islamic terrorists. Assad has demonstrated throughout the civil war he will only attack jihadists if they pose a threat to his desired territory. The regime and its allies have made little progress against ISIS or Al Qaeda in areas with populations the regime does not regard as an immediate strategic necessity. The presence of radical terrorists inside Syria allows Assad to paint anyone who opposes him as a “terrorist.”
NBCNews’s Bill Neely repeatedly pressed Assad on the charge he was a war criminal for indiscriminately bombing on civilians and using chemical weapons against children. Assad shrugged off the accusations repeatedly rejecting any evidence implying photos of the atrocities were photoshopped by his enemies. Assad defended his bombing campaigns of civilians by implying they were terrorist supporters and thus legitimate targets.
When Neely told Assad history would likely remember him as a brutal dictator with the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands, he again shrugged off the charge, saying, “If you have a doctor who cut the head because of a gangrene to save the patient, you don’t say he’s a brutal doctor. He’s doing his job in order to save the rest of the body.”
The interview comes on the heels of Assad’s speech before the Syrian parliament July 8 vowing to “liberate” every inch of Syria. Throughout the interview Assad was defiant and projected the image of a leader who likely remain in Syria for the years to come. In 2015, Assad was visibly downtrodden, telling the parliament the Army had to withdraw from certain areas out of “necessity.” After Russia’s intervention in September 2015, the Syrian army is better poised on the battlefield than at any time previously.
More than half a million Syrians have died throughout the civilian war, and nearly 10 million are displaced across the globe. The vast majority of deaths have been at the hands of the Syrian regime. When asked about his use of starvation of a weapon of war and other barbaric practices, Assad simply replied “Yeah.”
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