Syrian President Bashar Assad should have not interest in “picking a fight” with the United States, said White House Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken in regards to the dictator's threat to retaliate against a U.S. strike.
In an appeal for public and congressional support, Blinken stressed that this would not be another long term commitment.
“This is limited, focused and what we believe is effetive, in terms of telling Assad don't use these again and also making it more difficult for him to do so in a very practical way,” Blinken stressed of the pending attack. “It is not going to war with Syria. It is not Iraq. It is not Afghanistan. It is not boots on the ground.”
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Assad said if the U.S. strikes Syria, “You should expect everything. Not necessarily from the government.” Asked to elaborate, Assad said the U.S. would “pay the price if you are not wise with dealing with terrorists.”
U.S. intelligence believes that Assad's regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attack unleashed on Aug. 21 that killed 1,429 Syrians.
Blinken told reporters the United States is taking every possible precaution to prepare for a potential attack.
"We take every posible precaution to make sure to prevent and defend against anything that might arise from the use of military action," he said. "It is our judgment that President Assad and Syria very limited interest in picking a fight with the United States government.”
A German newspaper, Bild am Sonntag, reported that Assad's forced used the chemical weapons without an order from Assad.
Blinken had doubts that was the case.
“Assad, we believe is in control of the chemical program and would have – let me put it this way – any standing order to use these weapons would have been issued by Assad," he said.
In the lead up to a vote in Congress to authorize a military strike, Blinken said his sense was that every member of Congress that has been made privy to the intelligence, “comes away with two things, chemical weapons were used and Assad is the one who used them.”