BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar Assad predicted a global catastrophe should the West invade his country, and representatives of Syria's notoriously divided opposition struggled Thursday to form a united government-in-exile against Assad's beleaguered rule.
The International Red Cross, meanwhile, warned that it could no longer cope with the fast-expanding humanitarian crisis in Syria, where a raging civil conflict has left millions in need of shelter, medical aid, food and other necessities.
In an interview with the Russian RT television channel, Assad sketched an apocalyptic scenario should the West mount an invasion of Syria, where foreign-backed armed rebels are fighting to depose him.
“I think the price of this invasion, if it happens, is ... too big," Assad, speaking in English, told the Russian station. “More than the whole world can afford. ... We are the last stronghold of secularity and stability in the region. And coexistence, let's say. It will have a domino effect ... from the Atlantic to the Pacific."
Most independent experts agree that the U.S. and other foreign powers supporting the Syrian opposition are extremely unlikely to deploy troops to Syria.
Meanwhile, in Qatar, various disparate elements of the Syrian opposition were struggling to form a unified coalition that could serve as a kind of government-in-exile. Opponents of Assad have bickered for months about fundamental issues such as the role of religion in a new Syria and future representation of the nation's many minorities.
And in Geneva, Peter Maurer, president of International Committee of the Red Cross, warned that the humanitarian scenario was deteriorating as winter approached. Aid agencies estimate that as many as 1.5 million Syrians have been made homeless within the country, and another 500,000 have fled Syria.
“The humanitarian situation is getting worse despite the scope of the operation increasing," Maurer told reporters. “We can't cope with the worsening of the situation."