In an Aug. 21 interview on Syrian state television, Assad made the first
reference to Syria's military might. He hinted to Syria's missile and
non-conventional arsenal, believed to include chemical and biological
"As for the threat of a military action, any action against Syria will
have greater consequences, greater than they can tolerate," Assad said.
Western diplomats said Assad appeared to be responding to rising
military tension with neighboring Turkey. They said the Turkish government
of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was examining the prospect of forming a safe
haven for rebels and refugees along the border with Syria.
"Turkey sees its opportunity in controlling northeastern Syria as in the
Ottoman days," a regional diplomatic source said.
"They know part of it [Syrian military prowess]," Assad said in the
40-minute interview. "But they do not know the other parts and they will not
be able to afford the results."
The president did not cite Syria's capabilities. Western intelligence
sources said Assad still controls his medium-range Scud D ballistic
missiles, designed to be fitted with chemical and perhaps biological
Syria has been using its Russian-origin military in an effort to quell
the revolt, which began in March. So far, more than 2,100 civilians
were said to have been killed by Assad's military and security forces.
Assad said the revolt was led by Islamist insurgency groups. The
president said more than 500 soldiers and police were killed since March as
the attacks on the regime intensified.
The rebel attacks were said to have peaked on Aug. 19. Assad said
Islamic fighters attacked police and army posts and killed officers as well
as destroyed military vehicles.