SYDNEY (AP) — Western nations publicly critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime have been quietly sending security officials to collaborate with his government, Assad said in an interview broadcast Friday.
In an interview with Australia's SBS news channel, the Syrian leader accused Western governments of hypocrisy for criticizing him while working with him behind the scenes.
"This is the double standard of the West in general: They attack us politically and they send us their officials to deal with us under the table, especially the security, including your government," Assad told SBS.
"They all do the same. They don't want to upset the United States. Actually, most of the Western officials, they only repeat what the United States wants them to say. This is the reality," he said.
President Barack Obama is opposed to armed intervention in Syria's civil war, which has left at least 250,000 people dead and contributed to a global refugee crisis. Though he blamed Assad for using chemical weapons in 2013 and threatened military strikes against Syrian forces, he has thus far only authorized strikes against the Islamic State movement and other U.S.-designated terror groups in Syria.
Assad said that while he had no dialogue directly with the U.S., there was indirect communication between the countries through back channels, including "businessmen going (and) traveling around the world and meeting with the officials in the United States and in Europe."
"But there's nothing serious," he said. "Because we don't think the administration, the American administration, is serious about solving the problem in Syria."
Assad said he was not opposed to working with the U.S., but criticized America for creating problems that it fails to solve.
"(Former President George W.) Bush invaded Iraq; in a few weeks, he could occupy Iraq. But then what's next? It's not about occupying. This is a great power. We're not a great power," Assad said.
"So, it's not about America occupying Syria. What's next? What do they want to achieve? They haven't achieved anything. They have failed in Libya, in Iraq, in Yemen, in Syria, everywhere. They only created chaos. So if the United States wants to create more chaos, it can ... but can they solve the problem? No."
Assad said he wasn't concerned about a recent internal memo from more than 50 U.S. State Department officials urging U.S. military action against Syria's government. The diplomats who signed the "dissent channel cable" said that targeted U.S. attacks could increase leverage over Assad in diplomatic negotiations that have repeatedly failed.
"Warmongers in every American administration always exist," Assad said. "It's not something new."