Friday, April 1, 2011
Bashar Assad is in It for Long Haul
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave a defiant speech in Damascus on Wednesday that should make clear to everyone that he has no intention of stepping down - peacefully or otherwise.
The reference to sects is perhaps evidence of Assad’s sense of irony, since his own regime rests on the support of the minority Alawi sect, who comprise 12% of the population.
The protesters, meanwhile, hail overwhelmingly from Syria’s 75% Sunni Muslim majority.
But Assad’s irony is no laughing matter. This reference, and the remark about an attempt to “divide” Syria, signal that the regime is accusing the protesters of two of the cardinal sins in the professed Arab nationalist viewpoint of the Baathist regime in Syria.
It matters little whether Assad himself takes seriously his own rhetoric. The point is that this type of terminology has the sound of a regime preparing for a long and ruthless fight against an internal enemy which it is seeking to characterize in the most negative terms at its disposal.
The reference to 2005 is instructive in another way. In that year, the Syrian regime was on the ropes, with some commentators predicting its imminent demise. By citing it, Assad is also reminding his listeners and the world of his staying power. By its favored methods of clandestine violence and intimidation, the Assad family dictatorship bounced back hard from the doldrums in the subsequent years. Bashar believes it can do so again.
Hence the tone of defiance that summed up the speech.
Here the dictator’s feline sense of humor was on display again. “We don’t seek battles,” said Bashar (an assertion which would come as news to the peoples of Israel, Lebanon and Iraq, frequent targets of the myriad proxy military groups maintained by the Syrian regime).
“But if a battle is imposed on us today – ahlan wasahlan – welcome.” Syria would fight the “domino project,” and make it fall.
So there it all was. Israeli plots, domino projects for fragmentation and division.
Armed gangs, chaos, and a welcoming of the battle by the Syrian dictator, casting himself in the nationalist-tragic mode which is the style of stifling rhetoric that he and other regional leaders of his stripe prefer. All by way of a not-soveiled threat.
This time against his own people.
This was the authentic voice of the Arab old order – or at least the military dictatorial part of it. Intoning its old certainties.
No mention of reform or change. “Stability” said Assad, was the number one interest.
And Hillary Clinton continues to fool herself that Assad is a 'reformer' and claims that the Congress agrees with her. If I were a Republican in Congress, I'd be all over that.
Labels: Bashar al-Assad, Hillary Clinton, reformer
posted by Carl in Jerusalem @ 7:55 AM