White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Syrian President Bashar Assad "appears to be in a lie" when telling PBS journalist Charlie Rose in an interview to be aired
Monday that he was not behind chemical attacks in Damascus.
"I'm saying that he's clearly misleading," McDonough told CBS "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer of Assad's claims in the interview, which will be aired in its entirety Monday on CBS and PBS.
"He appears to be in a lie," said McDonough. "Every indication that we have is that he carried out the attack, and we need to indicate what's expected of him. What's expected is that he live up to the prohibition now, that's almost 100 years old, against these dastardly weapons to gas women and children."
Assad told Rose in the interview that the United States needs to tell the world what evidence it has, and McDonough insisted that there is plenty of evidence to prove that the Assad regime carried out the attack.
And members of Congress who have seen the intelligence do not refute or deny that Assad used chemical weapons against his own people. But the real question he said, is whether there should be consequences "for the largest chemical attack in three decades."
The answer to that question will be followed "in Damascus and also in Teheran and among Hezbollah," McDonough said. "So it's important that Congress pass the resolution to send a clear and very convincing message to the international community."
Meanwhile, McDonough said that President Barack Obama will make his case in a national appearance on Tuesday, and the president "wants to make sure the whole country hears him. What he'll tell the country is this is targeted, limited consequential force. This is not Iraq. This is not Afghanistan. This isn't an extended air campaign like in Libya. It's targeted and reasonable."
Meanwhile, McDonough said that there are many members of Congress who have not been fully briefed because they were in recess in August, but he has no doubt that the evidence will convince them action needs to be taken.
"Frankly, members have been in their states and districts and have not had a chance to see all that we are ready to brief them on," said McDonough. "Those who have seen it are very compelled, as I've said to you, the question becomes then, why is it that there's opposition?"
He said the nation has been under "11 or 12 years of tremendous sacrifice" with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the "president has learned our lessons from that."
"That's why we're talking about targeted, limited operations with very narrow objectives," he said. "We're not talking about overturning a government."
He acknowledged Obama opposed the war in Iraq because "he knew it was a mission with unplanned-for consequences, unbudgeted-for costs, and we saw the result of that."
Congressional approval will keep the Syrian mission from expanding, McDonough said.
The chief of staff would not comment on what will happen if Congress refuses the military strikes.
"I believe if Congress wants to hold the Assad regime to account, and if Congress wants to make sure that the Iranians, Hezbollah and others understand that you cannot have greater operating space to pursue weapons of mass destruction like the nuclear program in Iran, then they have to vote yes for this resolution," he said.
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