News / Middle East

Defiant Assad Speech Draws Angry Reaction From Syrian Opponents

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks at Damascus university, January 10, 2012.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks at Damascus university, January 10, 2012.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has again promised both reform and retaliation in response to the unrest roiling the nation.  Assad also added the Arab League to the list of groups fueling Syria's problems.

In his first speech since June, President Assad remained defiant, blaming foreign interference for the turmoil, while claiming he retained the support of his people.  He vowed he would deal with "terrorists" with an "iron fist" - a reference to those opposed to him who, in addition to peaceful protesters, have increasingly included armed military defectors.

Assad denied ordering security forces to shoot at civilians, saying there is no order at any level to do so.  He also blamed foreign news sources for spreading lies.  The government has strictly controlled media coverage, but countless amateur reports have shown troops firing on unarmed protesters.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in a 100-minute speech in Damascus...

  • Security can 'only be achieved by hitting the terrorists with an iron hand.'
  • 'The dark desires of warmongers outside cannot be hidden away and are made clear now.'
  • 'By law, nobody can open fire, except in self-defense.'
  • 'There is no order at any level within the levels of our country to shoot at any civilian.'
  • 'When I leave this position, it will be because all of the Syrian people want it.'

The two-hour speech, aired on state television, offered a familiar mix of apparent concessions along with renewed threats.

The president raised the possibility of a referendum on a new constitution and called for a broader-based government, 40 years after his family came to power.  He also vowed that a national dialogue would begin shortly, though he has promised, and failed to hold, inclusive talks before.

In addition to criticism of the West,  Assad had harsh words for the Arab League, which has suspended Syria and now has sent a team to monitor whether Damascus is keeping its promise to end the crackdown.

Even as the president spoke, demonstrations continued in other cities, and Kuwaiti media reported that several of its league monitors had been attacked and injured the day before.

Opposition forces used Twitter to send videos of people slapping televisions carrying the speech with their sandals, while others documented the ongoing violence.

One opposition activist, Haitham al Maleh, watching the address from his base in Turkey, dismissed the promises Assad made.

"My reaction is that all his speech is a kind of propaganda and made up of lies.  He wants to say to the international community and to the Arab world that he is good and he is going to change, but he will not.   He is not going to do anything differently," said the activist.

Political analyst Nadim Shehadi of London-based Chatham House questions how long Assad can keep up the defiant front.

"The way I interpret the speech is that the regime in effect cannot really recognize or acknowledge a real crisis.  It's a regime that can only look absolutely strong until the last minute, and then it will break down," said Shehadi.

The United Nations estimates 5,000 people have been killed in the 10 months of unrest.   Some outside Syria, including Turkey's leaders this week, have expressed fears the situation is nearing civil war.

 

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid