Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned that strikes aimed at his country would trigger a regional conflict if they were carried out by the West. He also warned France that Syria would retaliate against any strike from the opposing nation.
The comments came on Monday after France released an intelligence report alleging that the regime carried out chemical weapons attacks last month.
Calling the Middle East a “powder keg,” CBS News reports that Assad added, “Everyone will lose control when the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. There is a risk of a regional war.”
The warnings come just days after US President Barack Obama announced his desire to strike Syria in retaliation for the alleged chemical weapons use. However, a strike will have to wait for Congress’ approval, and the legislative body doesn’t return from recess for another week.
Reuters notes that Assad also warned against France carrying out any strikes, saying that “the state will be their enemy” if they are “hostile to the Syrian people.”
The Syrian president added that “there will be repercussions, negative ones obviously, on French interests,” should the nation use force against Syria. It is unclear if France and the United States will be deterred by Assad’s threats.
Both Obama and French President Francois Hollande have announced the chemical weapons attack two weeks ago was the fault of the Syrian government. France has also supported the uprising since it began in March 2011 and is a strong advocate for force in the region.
Hollande has the constitutional right to make war and, unlike the UK, would not have to go through the legislature to authorize an attack on Syria. While US President Barack Obama has said he doesn’t need Congress’ approval, he declared on Saturday that it would be an even stronger response if the strike was voted on democratically.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault added after Assad’s comments, “This act cannot be left without a response.” It is unclear if, or when, France would consider military action in Syria.