News / Middle East

    Syrian President Assad Vows to Defeat 'Plot'

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addresses the nation during a speech at the Parliament in Damascus, Syria, March 30, 2011
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addresses the nation during a speech at the Parliament in Damascus, Syria, March 30, 2011

    President Bashar al-Assad told parliament that Syria will defeat those behind a "plot" against his country. Assad said he would continue on the path of reform for Syria - but did not announce the lifting of a state of emergency, as protesters have desired.

    Members of the Syrian parliament gave an effusive show of support for Assad as he entered parliament to discuss the recent wave of unrest shaking his country. Assad had remained silent throughout the crisis, and his first address was eagerly awaited.

    His hand appeared to have been strengthened by a series of pro-government rallies across the country on Tuesday. Tens of thousands of Syrians took to the streets of more than half a dozen cities to cheer on the president, eclipsing recent violence in the towns of Daraa and Latakia.

    However, news reports say hundreds of chanting protesters took to the streets in Syria's coastal city of Latakia, just hours after Assad delivered his speech.

    Assad expressed regret for the violence and bloodshed that has killed and wounded dozens, but stopped short of apologizing. He noted that regional upheaval was in part responsible for developments in Syria, and denounced what he called foreign and domestic plots.

    He said that Syria is facing a major conspiracy today, and that some of its threads stretch far, some near, and others are inside the country. He stressed that the conspiracy has been shaped both in its form and its timing by what is taking place in other Arab countries. He argued that plotters are mixing three elements: sectarian strife, reform and material needs, but that sectarian strife has taken the forefront.

    Assad had been expected to announce a lifting of the state of emergency in place for the past 50 years. He did not do so, but said a draft bill on that - along with one on a multi-party system - was taking too long. Under the current emergency law, security forces have sweeping powers of arrest and detention.

    He said that reforms announced Thursday did not begin from scratch, and have been under discussion for a while, especially formation of political parties. He added that other reforms will be announced when they have been discussed and ratified. He pointed out that the reforms deal with media laws, corruption, and unemployment.

    Jihad Makdissi, spokesman for the Syrian Embassy in London, called Assad a “reformer” and insisted that he would live up to that expectation.

    "I have enormous confidence that President Assad is a reformer and he believes in reform and he will deliver. He will be ending - he already announced this - the martial law that will allow Syrians to live under normal rule of law and at the same time it will allow us to avoid any abuse of power by anyone," said Makdissi.

    Joshua Landis, who is director of the Center for Middle East Studies at Oklahoma University, called President Assad’s address Wednesday an “old-line speech,” pitting “us versus them," and outlining only vague compromises.

    Assad came to power in 2000, following the death of his father, longtime former President Hafez al Assad. The younger Assad began his tenure with a vow to reform the political system, but quickly came under pressure from his entourage, and was forced to back down.

    Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
    and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora