Even as French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault tried to convince his country’s parliamentarians that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad was indeed behind the chemical weapons attack that allegedly claimed over 1400 lives, the Syrian strongman in a long, exclusive interview with Le Figaro newspaper warned the French of dire consequences in the event of any military attack against Syria.
Faced with a rising demand for a parliamentary vote on whether or not France should engage in a military strike against Syria, Mr. Ayrault circulated a nine-page intelligence dossier aimed at removing any doubts about Mr. Assad’s culpability. The dossier, compiled by French intelligence services claimed that Mr. Assad’s forces had in fact launched a massive sarin gas attack in the Ghouta suburb of Damascus on August 21. While the Syrian rebels have claimed a death count of over 1400, the French intelligence report said it attributed 281 deaths to the attack. The report said France had the exact locations from where the toxic missiles were fired. But as many commentators pointed out, even this detailed dossier did not constitute irrefutable proof of Mr. Assad’s guilt.
Mr. Ayrault announced that there would be no vote in the French Parliament when that body meets on 4 September to discuss the Syrian crisis. However, it was later announced that President Francois Hollande was not, in principle, opposed to such a vote. The French Constitution does not make it mandatory for the President to seek prior parliamentary approval for any military action. The French Head of State has three days in which to announce that he has engaged the country in a military operation. Mr. Hollande is now expected to address his countrymen directly.
Mr. Assad in his interview with Le Figaro warned Paris that any strike against his country would have consequences on French interests. He also said those accusing him of using chemical weapons should give concrete proof. “Mr. Obama and Mr. Hollande are incapable of furnishing any proof to their people. And suppose our army did wish to use chemical weapons, why would it do so in a zone where our own soldiers were affected as observed by the U.N. weapons inspectors? Where is the logic?” Mr. Assad told Le Figaro
Describing the West Asian region as a powder keg, he said, the spark that would set it alight was fast approaching. “One should not speak only of the Syrian riposte but also of what might happen after an attack. No one can say what will happen. The world will lose control once the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. The risk of a regional war exists,” Mr. Assad said.
He warned the French against heavy consequences in case of a strike. “Whosoever contributes militarily or financially to strengthen the terrorists is an enemy of the Syrian people…. Our hostility towards France will cease when the French State changes its policy towards us. There will be repercussions, negative of course, on French interests.”