Charlie Rose: Syrian president ‘closely watching’ debate over military intervention

Correction: A previous version of this post misspelled the White House chief of staff's first name. It is Denis. 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is "closely watching" the American political debate over whether to authorize military strikes on his country, PBS's Charlie Rose said on Sunday.

"There is a clear sense that they are closely watching what has happened in Washington," Rose said on CBS News's "Face the Nation" on Sunday morning, following an interview with Assad. Rose described Assad—and the capital Damascus—as being "calm," adding that Assad "knew the position he was in."

Assad denied using chemical weapons on his citizens. He also would neither confirm nor deny whether his government has chemical weapons, Rose said adding that Assad told him that if Syria had them, "they are in centralized control and no one else has access to them."

Assad also urged the American public to remember its recent experiences in the region, Rose said.

"He had a message to the American people that it had not been a good experience for them to get involved in the Middle East in wars and conflicts in the Middle East, that the results had not been good and they should not get involved and that they should  communicate to their Congress and to their leadership in Washington not to authorize a strike."

Responding to Rose's brief preview of the interview, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough reiterated the administration's belief that Assad did indeed use chemical weapons against his own citizens.

"He clearly is misleading, he does appear to me to be a liar," McDonough said.

Excerpts from the interview will air on CBS on Monday, with the full interview airing on Rose's PBS show on Monday night, host Bob Schieffer said.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.

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Niraj Chokshi · September 8, 2013

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