Syria

Bashar al-Assad to Face the Nation

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is scheduled to address his people tomorrow afternoon, one day after sacking his cabinet in the wake of increasingly bloody nationwide protests. Speculation is rampant on Twitter, Facebook, and the media about what al-Assad is likely to say. In my view, he has two broad options:

  1. He can play the blame game that Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Qadhafi played before him (and that some of his advisors indulged in over the past couple weeks), pointing the finger at meddlesome outside forces who were intent on disturbing the peace in Syria.
  2. Or, he can address some of the protestors’ grievances. The question here is, of course, how far is he willing to go?

My sense is that Bashar is likely to try to “shoot the moon”, as he has done at other moments of pressure and instability. Anyone who has followed his political career over the past decade can attest to the following qualities of Bashar’s governing style:

  • He tends to cultivate a reputation as a bit of a maverick, making counter-intuitive choices that keep his opponents guessing, and which have gotten Syria out of several tight spots.
  • While the regime has a reputation for being conservative and not gambling in its strategic choices, it can be induced to move rather quickly when stability is at stake. In 2005, Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon was carried out far more quickly than anyone could have imagined, and proved to be a winning decision (despite looking like a dangerous capitulation by a weak and untested young president, at the time). Similarly, following a period of intense hardball in Lebanon from 2006-08, Bashar turned around abruptly and announced to the world that Syria had reached an advanced stage in its peace negotiations with Israel. His allies and opponents were befuddled; that, I think, was the point.
  • He relishes catering to a wealth of audiences; think of his simultaneous courtship of European powers and the U.S., the ‘moderate’ Sunni Arab regimes and Iran, etc. When at all possible, he likes to keep his options open.
  • The critical thing to note, however, is that most of his riskier gambits have taken place in the sphere of regional politics. Al-Assad has yet to take any real risks on the domestic political scene. The experimental reform period  dubbed the “Damascus Spring” was short-lived, and there have been few real attempts to liberalize the country’s political arena since then.

So what can we expect from Bashar in his speech tomorrow? I could very easily be mistaken, but my sense is that we’re approaching another one of those moments where he tries to throw his critics off balance by going beyond the conservative and expected response. I would be surprised, in fact, if he does not declare the emergency law lifted and/or permit the formation of opposition parties. He may also promise compensation for the families of those killed in protests and launch an “investigation” into the events that led to the “security incidents”.

Anything less than such an aggressive response is likely to be too little to assuage the growing mass of critics. I think al-Assad knows that, and he’s going to try to pull another rabbit out of a hat.

Let’s wait and see.
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Discussion

72 thoughts on “Bashar al-Assad to Face the Nation

  1. I agree with you that anything less than announcing the lifting the emergency law and paving the way for multi-party system would not be enough. That said, i wouldn’t overestimate the move. There are several other ways to replace the emergency laws (i.e ‘anti-terror’ laws). Also, there is a major difference between beginning the process of introducing other political parties vs. actually reaching a point where the opposition parties are happy with their political representations.

    I personally believe the president will go with both option 1&2 you gave. Stressing the conspiracy message that outside elements, other nations and arabic/international news channels are complicet in fabricating and/or being biased. While at the same time acknowledging the need for change and introducing what many will view as important or even sufficient steps to call for cease of protest. It’s is certainly a prime moment to push for reforms but as usual Arab nations have failed to act pro-actively on these issues prior to violence breaking out. I think if Syria had lifted the emergency laws before march 15th we wouldn’t have seen violence breaking out.

    that said I highly doubt that:

    a) the opposition will slow down. they simply smell fear now and understandably believe that it was due to their protests that change is being made and therefore more protests are necessary.

    b) certain elements in the syrian government will allow for real change to occur as this will only ease opposition voice to be heard on a wider scale.

    But as you said, let’s wait and see.

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | March 29, 2011, 4:37 pm
  2. My bets are he will turn things around.

    There are determining factors that will keep him in power, to his luck.

    1) Demonstrations are spread across Syria but there is no one central and defining demonstration in the heart of the capital, no Tahrir square.
    The Egyptian revolution had Egyptians from all walks of life. In Syria, it is mostly mobs of angry men with no signs of a unified opposition, no creative slogans, no romanticism(you need this for morale).

    2) Assad has not been as long as the Hosni, Gaddhafi, Ben Ali et al.

    3)Assad is seen as the protector, championing the Palestinian and Arab cause.

    All these points might just save his behind to live another day.He will reform and sack a few scapegoats and he will come out of this on top.

    Posted by Maverick | March 29, 2011, 5:02 pm
  3. Bashar is the head of a sophisticated “cargo cult”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult#Other_uses_of_the_term
    This cult believes that economic growth will come to Syria via superficial changes that are in fact just the symptoms of economic growth. For example, a growing modern economy requires a stock exchange. But just having a stock exchange does not guarantee a growing modern economy.

    Bashar must be willing to accept the real ingredients required for robust economic growth and job creation or whatever he does will help only for a very short while. Either way, his stranglehold on Syria cannot last much longer. He either starts to deliver real growth of 8-10% or he will soon be out of power. And to provide 8-10% he needs to export and he needs foreign investment. So his foreign policy needs to change also to make his relations with West much better.

    Let’s see what he promises and what he delivers. My bet is that he will stay with the cargo cult mentality and announce just superficial changes that won’t solve the core problems.

    Posted by AIG | March 29, 2011, 5:27 pm
  4. Nice summary Elias, but I disagree with you about the maverick description. On the contrary, I find most of the decisions taken over the last decade to have been predictable and fitting with the regime’s frames of reference and rules of survival. Even when the decisions were bad ones. (One surprise remains though: that they didn’t abstain on UNSC Resolution 1441.)

    However, while I do have my own hunch about what tomorrow will bring (hunches which I am not sharing because they don’t live up to the great weight of expectations so many people have), I think it’s probable that tomorrow is still a blank slate and that decisions have not yet been made, apart from the mostly symbolic lifting of martial law, Syria having many other laws which fit the purpose just as well. Worse, it can open the way for a Patriot Act scenario which I see as inevitable.

    In addition to the content of the promises, which won’t mean much until the regime acts on them, I am going to be watching the style and the context in which he puts those promises. Is it going to be a “see how great I am” to give you people so much all at once, even while Syria fights this great attack and conspiracy from every Tom, Dick and Harry in the region (and interrupted by a gazillion applauses)?

    Or is it going to be more down to earth, more sober in tone due to the gravity of the situation, with an apology for the blood shed in Daraa and beyond, condolences to the families of the victims, and a recognition that Syrian people have been very very very patient until now?

    The reaction of unhappy Syrians, and their interpretation of the many promises which will be made tomorrow will be a barometer for the mood of things to come, obviously. I think it’s therefore more than just content (promises which will take time to be fulfilled) and depends a lot as well on form, and I wonder whether these factors are being considered in Damascus.

    Posted by Rime | March 29, 2011, 5:42 pm
  5. I gotta say that I’m a bit disappointed in QN’s analysis here. It’s almost reads like Bashar is some kinda machiavelian genius who knows just how to pull rabbits from a hat and turn a losing situation upside down by surprising his enemies.
    Unfortunately, all the examples sites, imo, are somewhat superficial. If one looks at the 11 years of Bashar’s reign, what stands out to me the most is the exact opposite of a guy who likes to keep everyone guessing. The Syrian MO has been exactly the same for the past 11 years on all fronts (Talking about peace with Israel while finding excuses not to talk, talking about opening up while not really opening up, talking about getting closer to the west while continually torpedoing the west’s every initiative, etc).
    The MO has in fact shown very little creativity or divergence over the past decade. So I’m really not seeing this whole “he likes to throw people off” business you talk about, Elias.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 29, 2011, 5:50 pm
  6. In many ways Bashar is fortunate to preside over a pluralistic society that can point to the sectarian chaos of Iraq on one side and Lebanon on the other. It is easy for him to make the case that he provides protection from sectarian fragmentation and disorder. Mubarak and Ben Ali did not have such a cushion. Many in Syria may want reform, but many seem to want reform with Bashar at the helm, however hopeless such a prospect may be. In a way Bashar is just lucky to be in that position, but there is no doubting that it remains a tricky position to maintain and he seems to have done it deftly through an ever-varying cocktail of nationalism, Islamism, anti-Westernism, pragmatism, secularism, and sectarianism, not to mention good old fashioned fear and violence.

    Posted by Jonathan | March 29, 2011, 6:40 pm
  7. Rime,

    So I’m the only one who’s going to go out on a limb here and predict something? 🙂

    You’re right: the tone will be interesting… I’ll be waiting and watching.

    BV: He’s not a genius; that wasn’t my meaning. But I do think that he has been very canny in his strategy, as far as regional politics is concerned. He managed to withstand a diplomatic full court press from 2005-08 and emerge with Lebanon more or less back in the Syrian sphere of influence, and European/Arab officials traipsing through Damascus… He has surely made mistakes, but I think that on balance, he’s played his cards pretty well.

    But when it comes to domestic politics, its a very different picture as AIG correctly points out. This is where some of the toughest challenges lie, now that the Syrian population has grown restive and is less afraid to voice its opposition to the regime. If drastic measures are not taken, I think we’ll keep seeing these kinds of protests crop up again and again until we finally have a rupture.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 29, 2011, 6:42 pm
  8. Spot on. I would be very surprised if he pulled a “mubarak” and did a volte face after days of speculation about abolishing the emergency law and addressing the concerns of the people. Let’s see what happens.

    Posted by Maysaloon | March 29, 2011, 6:47 pm
  9. Syria is a basket case economically, ecologically , demographically and politically.
    It is a country with an unacceptably high rate of population growth that is outstripping its meager economic performance and has tremendous ecological problems, (desertification , water scarcity and food insecurity)and yet it is determined to continue personality worship practices and violation of all aspects of human rights.
    Bashars’ elevn years have not imptoved the welfare of Syria in any tangible way but have instead contributed to more stratification. It would not be inconceivable to speak of N. Korea and Syria as two countries that have trailed the rest of the world by all yardsticks as a result of mismanagement by a a dictatorial regime. If that is the genius of the Syrian regime then one has to pity the citizens who have to put up with all these inequities.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 29, 2011, 6:55 pm
  10. Let’s look past Bashar and to the real power brokers of government power in the middle east, the armies.

    In order to predict what will happen with Syria a thoughtful analysis of the country’s military structure / loyalties would be prudent. I do not know enough about Syria and will leave that up to smarter people on this blog. How loyal is the military regime in Syria to Bashar?

    1) Iran / KSA / Bahrain – the army did not wane / deadly force was used – result status quo
    2) Egypt / Tunisia / Libya – major defections from army – result change

    Posted by tamer k. | March 29, 2011, 7:01 pm
  11. The difference between Syria and Egypt/Tunisia is that in Syria, the army (or at least the officer corps) is personally loyal to the Assad family (tribal/alawi affiliation) whereas in Tunisia and Egypt the military institutions were “larger” so to speak than the individual Mubarak or Ben Ali.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 29, 2011, 7:07 pm
  12. Obviously, President Assad has surprised me with his modernization programs, his interest in real reform, and his life-long quest for peace with the Zionist Entity that just won’t go away.

    I nominate President Bashar Assad for the Nobel Peace Prize. He should be a “shoe-in”.

    Posted by AKbar Palace | March 29, 2011, 7:26 pm
  13. There should be no doubt that the man will try to reinvent himself tomorrow but that is not the issue. Should people trust a person who has discovered the need for reformafter 11 years of cruel rule and someone who is clearly the real power in a syatem but yet dismisses all the cabinet as if to say that the cabinet exercised any power of its own? I do not blame him for trying to maintain the privileges of power for himself and for his clan but I am doubtful that many will by into this charade. The better way out is to admit that he and his father before him have been out of touch with the real people and their aspirations and that it is time to open the system others. He would do himself and the Syrian people lots of good by just fading away, which he will not do. I feel confident that many will not buy into this myth of rebirth.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 29, 2011, 7:42 pm
  14. A little humour goes a long way…

    http://townhall.com/political-cartoons/michaelramirez

    Posted by AkbarPalace | March 29, 2011, 8:02 pm
  15. President Assad will take the blame for the delay in establishing the political party law but blaming that on the dangers that Syria was facing in the last 10 years from risk of invasion after Iraq to leaving Lebanon under significant threat of the international court to the bad economic situation that he found Syria after he took office,

    What he will announce is the end of Emergency law, political party system, end of the death sentence for members of the MB who are not convicted or accused of crimes, and the Major one is the end to one party rule and the lock of the Baath party on the country,I just hope that he will not misunderstand the crowds today as a pass to keep business as usual, but an indication that the Syrian people are willing to give him a chance to lead them toward reform that they demand.

    Posted by Norman | March 29, 2011, 8:15 pm
  16. GK,
    a logical assessment, and I would agree on all accounts, but it really depends on the audience. You can easily convince the readers on this blog, but what matters in this case is the 20 million or so Syrians who have lived under despotic rule for decades.
    Syria is a manifestation of George Orwelles 1984.
    The people have been in the dark for so long, out of fear, but also out of ignorance. They are not encouraged to learn about other systems, or any other subject that doesnt fit into the Baath party syllabus. If I may, the people are still in the Saddam-type leader complex where a nation must be led by a patriachial,powerful, and patriotic head of state.
    Not to discount their intelligence, but Im going out on a limb here, and say that the Syrian people have been psychologically bashed into submission, and cleansed of alternative thinking.
    A trip to Syria not long ago confirmed that, as I saw elements of deprived sleepwalkers,having the life sapped out of them.A sombre atmosphere.
    Sure, they all want economic reforms, but Assad can easily convince them by “stating” reforms without actually implementing them fully.Cosmetics.
    This is what he is doing now.With the show of support for Assad across Syria, and a lack of unified opposition or alternative, I think the Syrians will prefer to keep him at the helm to avoid violence and the fall into the unknown.They will be convinced, that the reforms and changes will enhance their livelihoods, and everybody will just move on.
    I hope I’m wrong, but I feel this will be the sad reality.

    Posted by Maverick | March 29, 2011, 8:23 pm
  17. Nothing of substance will be announced that will not be annulled by appropriate and corresponding measures.

    1) Abolishing an emergency law which has been in force even before humans landed on the moon can by no means be considered a reform.

    2) He may announce its abolition but then people would need special permits to demonstrate, effectively limiting the right to demonstrate to those gifted with the vocal chords to loudly chant birrou7h biddam nafdik ya… or allah, souria wil assad w bass.

    3) He will announce ‘free’ media access but only through state-controlled media, as it has been ‘proven’ by recent events that Syria is facing an evil outside conspiracy and Jazeera, BBC or CNN, etc… are tools of the imperialists, and therefore should be banned.

    4) You can form political parties as long as you do not actively recruit members or challenge the status quo. Appropriate conditions will be incorporated into ‘laws’ governing party formations.

    5) Nothing on the economic front aside from few handouts as there is nothing to plan for or reform. Any handout to the families of those killed = a full blown insult.

    After all said and done Mrs. Clinton will appear again and praise the ‘great reformer’ of ‘modern’ Syria. But, can he really offer anything of substance? No. Maher will be ready to take over and teach the sheep the lesson of their lives.

    I would rather follow on the news of the hospitalization of the ClAoun.

    Posted by anonymous | March 29, 2011, 9:20 pm
  18. “I would rather follow on the news of the hospitalization of the ClAoun.”

    When we talk Lebanese politics here, you complain that there isn’t enough Syria commentary. So we switch to Syria commentary, and now you want to back to Aoun? 🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 29, 2011, 9:27 pm
  19. It’s kind of ironic. A ‘bride’ plays hide and seek for a whole week. The ‘groom’ begs and pleads on ‘his’ knees in the streets for ‘her’ to appear, and all of a sudden the show is stollen by a ClAoun

    Even ‘fate’ itself seems to be involved in this ‘conspiracy’.

    Posted by anonymous | March 29, 2011, 10:31 pm
  20. My prediction is that his speech will definitely include a major regional initiative aimed towards filling the gap created by the disintegration of the old Arab League.
    In the last few days, he has received significant calls from Arab leaders, encouraging comments from the US.
    For sometime there has been a void in the leadership in the region which led Iran and Turkey to play a bigger role. Now is the time for a new era.
    Creative destruction at work!

    Posted by IHTDA | March 29, 2011, 10:58 pm
  21. My take is he will only announce the “buzzword” initiatives. Lifting of Emergency law…however maintaining a police state.
    Multi party system however narrowly defined with no democratic initiatives.
    He will stand firm against the Zionists and pledge his support to the Palestinian and Arab cause. 😀
    One thing I am curious to hear if he will attack the “foreign” interference (i.e Saudi through the FM…Already Syrian TV has been setting up the stage with false news about boatloads of arms being sent from Tripoli..Yah right!)…Then we will see whether the King called him or not lol.

    Posted by danny | March 29, 2011, 11:07 pm
  22. The alleged weapons that were caught most likely were returned to Syria from Tripoli West with a thank you note return to sender. Syrian media played on words to make it look like they came from Tripoli East.

    From Lebanon, We are only sending this present to all the Syrians,

    Posted by anonymous | March 29, 2011, 11:39 pm
  23. I agree with the tone of this discussion: you don’t stay in power for forty years without learning a few tricks. But then again, people who have been living under the regime also learn the same tricks.

    I don’t think we should under-estimate the awareness of the Syrian population to every manoeuver that takes place. I can bore you with a hundred annecdotes about this – my point is that he will not be able to fool the population this time.

    I will bore you with an anecdote on another subject: It must have been either the 8th or the 9th of June 2000, Eyal Zysser, wrote an article about Hafez al-Assad being silent about Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon. He expanded describing how the arch strategist, the Lion of Damascus, takes his time and evaluates all the options before making his next carefully calculated and measured moves. One or two days later Assad was dead.

    There is a kind of fascination with dictatorships to such an extent that even when the poor chap was in a coma, his fan club was speculating about his brilliant next move.

    The moral of the story is twofold:

    – one is that there are so many expectations about the speech that the only way Assad can surprise is by disappointing us.
    – two is that this is not about one man but about a whole system that is unable to reform itself.

    Deraa was not a mistake, it was the regime acting entirely in character. There was a time when you could get away with Hama but this is long gone.

    The myth is what makes the regime strong, when the myth falls, so does the regime.

    Posted by Nadim Shehadi | March 29, 2011, 11:45 pm
  24. Another day without an invasion!! I hope everyone managed to say thank you.

    Posted by dontgetit | March 30, 2011, 12:18 am
  25. The following short list demonstrates the accomplishments/ lack of accomplishments of the Syrian regime:

    Rank……………..Metric
    111………Human Development Index
    117…..Environmental Sustainability
    112………….GDP per capita
    127…………Corruption Index
    106………Internet Usage 180/1000
    082….Physicians / capita 1.4/1000
    147…..Cell phones/capita 347/1000
    140……….Economic Freedom Index
    152…….Democracy Index 2.31/10

    Does anyone think that such a sorry state of affairs can be fixed by a speech delivered by an architect of such marvels?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 30, 2011, 12:23 am
  26. Nadim, I agree about the moral of your story on the second point you make (this is about an entire system), but not on the first. It is still very possible that the speech will totally disappoint. I really think this is the first time that we have absolutely no idea how he, and the entire regime, will respond to the situation. Indeed, they’ve never themselves been faced with this tide of popular and very public display of anger.

    After hearing some of the slogans which teachers were making children repeat afer them yesterday, during the demos, initial conclusions can be very depressing. The next few hours and days are going to be stressful!

    Posted by Rime | March 30, 2011, 3:16 am
  27. LOL, GK, death by figures!

    food for thought:
    In retaliation to the US bombing near the Syria/Iraqi border a few years ago, The Baath republic of Syria closed down the American University and American schools.Syrian children had to find education elsewhere. Now take that you Americans, try touching us, we will close down our schools.

    LOL

    Posted by Maverick | March 30, 2011, 3:54 am
  28. Whatever Assad proposes, the fact remains that he is the head of a mafia clan and nothing can erase that.

    His family and entourage have intimidated, tortured, forced, jailed and enriched themselves beyond measure at the expense of Syrians.

    The more freedoms Assad will grant the people of Syria, the faster his downfall.

    So what if he sacked the entire cabinet “he/they” appointed?

    How does he expect that allowing political parties to be formed, that will compete against him in elections, won’t speak out against him and his cronies’ records?

    The best option for the Assads is to take the money and run to Marbella.

    Posted by R2D2 | March 30, 2011, 5:15 am
  29. Bashar Assad is a Dictator and an assassin. He is continuing an alarming cult of the leader that systematically formed around him since 1998…, modeled on Ceausescu. The Romanian dictator was Assad’s political ally, strategic adviser in matters of popular repression, and close personal and family friend…

    This cult was no easy thing to achieve in rowdy, opinionated and sardonic Syria, with its valiant history of fighting the xenophobic Turkish nationalism that came with the last years of the Ottoman empire and led to the hanging of so many Arab patriots in Marjeh Square….

    A vindictive family mafia is still in charge, monopolizing business and power with the crudest of propaganda machines and the most lethal of security services. Small wonder that Syria’s missing still number 17,000.

    Like all mafia families, they are now divided among themselves as to what they must do if they are to survive in a country that has broken the barrier of fear, and has paid in blood to do so. There is talk of deep disagreements between the brothers, the brother-in-law and assassin in Chief Asef Shawkat [ the CEO of the infamous White House Murder INC, since 2002 ] and sister Bushra Assad, and between them and their maternal cousins, the Makhloufs – who long have vied with Tunisia’s Trabelsi family (now thankfully deposed) for the title of most avaricious and unprincipled monopolizing operators and despicable thieves….The words uttered by the latest Assad in charge today will mean nothing, and will be followed by brutal repression and vengeance in the shadows…

    Syrians have come out en masse to demand rights they have been denied for so long.

    Their protest has a very high cost. They are subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment without trial, or trial by military court. Despite having no independent judiciary to defend them, no freedom of speech and no right to demonstrate, they are resolved to change their country for the better, whatever it may take. The most recent concession is the resignation of the cabinet. This and the staged pro-regime demonstrations that have just taken place are an indication not of how strong the Assads actually are, but rather of how weak and surpassed by political events they have become – much like the Mubaraks, Ben Alis, Al-Hariri, Al-Gemayel, Al-Jumblatt, Gaddafis, Al-Sauds, Al-Khalifah and Salehs of this new Arab world, which has been suddenly sentenced to hope….

    Posted by HK | March 30, 2011, 6:14 am
  30. Maverick,
    One could have easily added the average years of schooling which is also one of the lowest in the region something around 4.9 years, I believe.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | March 30, 2011, 7:37 am
  31. Same old, same old…Pathetic.
    Bashar was visibly nervous.
    Drought is a major issue which was not addressed as usual…and many other issues were touched upon but brushed aside for later…Economy and demography a major issue brushed aside too…
    Same old cacophony of cheers brought about by intelligence creeps….inside “parliament” and outside…
    Mr. know it all bashar assad has thought about all these reforms since 2005…but did not have the inclination to implement because of outside issues beyond his control….and other Bla Bla Bla…. Absolutely Pathetic.

    Posted by HK | March 30, 2011, 8:33 am
  32. Well QN…Where the hell was the reformist “maverick”?
    The guy is a ruthless butcher who will NOT move away from Iran and the path of brutality.
    Actually he said NOTHING of substance…and as I mentioned above; he blamed external forces and Satellite TV…WOW!

    Get ready for brutal repression!

    Posted by danny | March 30, 2011, 8:41 am
  33. R2D2 I cannot disagree with you more, if you were an advisor you would be sacked immediately. He should take the money and run to Cannes. Marbella is no longer in.

    Posted by Nadim Shehadi | March 30, 2011, 9:19 am
  34. I am sorry that all the optimists were disappointed.

    Shouldn’t we know by now that the guy is sooooo predictable exactly as the US and its ‘puppet’ know and would like to maintain.

    But, I kind of take credit for being the first one to use the term ‘nothing of substance’ in this thread.

    Let’s hope this Friday will turn into something of substance.

    Posted by anonymous | March 30, 2011, 9:19 am
  35. I was wrong to have any hope about him. The guy is now in the same category as his dad.

    Posted by AIG | March 30, 2011, 9:30 am
  36. AIG,

    I told you he was worse than his father. His reign of terror is about to end. Although I think Syria will go through brutal period; I hope calmer leaders will emerge to protect minority rights.

    Bashar has made the worst possible move. Thank you Hillary for calling him a reformer! REFORM THIS!

    Posted by danny | March 30, 2011, 9:42 am
  37. I have been saying that this monstrous Regime of assassins is protected, nurtured and joined in ALL its criminal endeavors by the Infamous White House Murder INC, and the Siamese Twins CIA/MOSSAD, the epicenter of Evil in this World.

    Posted by HK | March 30, 2011, 10:00 am
  38. Danny,

    Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Bashar may linger in power for a few more years. It took one year to get rid of the Shah. It could take 5 years to get rid of Assad given how ruthless the regime is and how disorganized the opposition.

    Posted by AIG | March 30, 2011, 10:23 am
  39. Bashar took a page out of the bahrain/ksa playbook. He is here to stay

    Posted by tamer k. | March 30, 2011, 10:32 am
  40. Something should be written about the Lemming instincts of Arab despots. They can see where it’s going but somehow they hope the cliff will never arrive (or maybe others will fall off, not them). I thought you were right KN and for once we would see someone playing a bit more cleverly. But humans are know for their short term calculations, and the preference for immediate gains over uncertain future.

    Posted by Mink | March 30, 2011, 10:34 am
  41. Bashar is on his way out. Those who wish he would stay (strange bedfellows indeed) such as Iran & Israel (Kerry & Clinton) will be disappointed.

    AIG, I guess we agree to disagree. we shall see what the days ahead will bring. My only fear is the return of bombings and chaos in Lebanon in revenge and to distract the world attention.
    I guess STL will indict the Syrian assassins after all.

    Pity Lebanon.

    Posted by danny | March 30, 2011, 11:15 am
  42. The air remains clouded with hypocrisy, double standards , utter disinformation, and conflicting interests when it comes to issues like Syria, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain/KSA….

    Posted by HK | March 30, 2011, 11:20 am
  43. Hi Norman,

    What was it you were saying again about the Emergency Law?

    Posted by Ed | March 30, 2011, 11:50 am
  44. CIA Director Leon Panetta to succeed Bob Gates as Secretary of Defense….Syria will remain in very good “Complicit Hands” for the next 2 decades. The Odious White House Murder INC, will be re-born again soon…
    Robert Ford can go back home, because the Syria Policy will remain in CIA hands, exactly as it has been since 1998….No matter what Congress or the State Department continue to gesticulate on Syria in the public arena.

    Posted by HK | March 30, 2011, 11:54 am
  45. I told you guys that Assad was just gonna play the usual MO. Speech was beyond predictable. I don’t get why some of you were thinking we’d see any major announcements of reform, etc.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 30, 2011, 12:20 pm
  46. It’s time for Bashar to do another Vogue piece. I don’t think his message is getting out there.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 30, 2011, 12:35 pm
  47. Nadim #34,

    I suggested Marbella as Uncle Rifa’at is practically a local there.

    He’d make the move from Syria and integration into polite civil society easier for the clan.

    Posted by R2D2 | March 30, 2011, 12:38 pm
  48. The best part of the entire choreographed charade today was Assad getting into the driver’s seat of his modest BMW … only to have a crazy peasant (who probably lost her son in Der’aa) ruin the perfect ending for Bashar on state TV.

    Posted by R2D2 | March 30, 2011, 12:47 pm
  49. links to videos of the speech in Arabic as well as translated please…
    R2D2, any link to a video of what you mention?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | March 30, 2011, 1:09 pm
  50. HP,

    For your eyes only!

    Posted by R2D2 | March 30, 2011, 1:15 pm
  51. Bleh. Look at that smug smile on the guy’s face. While people are getting killed. Every single one of those arab leaders with their cult of personality need to go rot in hell, ASAP.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | March 30, 2011, 1:21 pm
  52. Musical chairs at Foggy Bottom, one creep replaces another creep and thus the story goes for the utterly crumbling Empire of Evil. Under Sec-Of-State Bill Burns to succeed Jim Steinberg as Deputy Sec-Of-State…. & Jeffrey Feltman to succeed Burns? Pathetic dance, from Bad to Worse….

    Posted by HK | March 30, 2011, 1:37 pm
  53. تمخض الجبل فولد فأرة

    Posted by V | March 30, 2011, 1:50 pm
  54. Wow! What a brave lady.
    What a brittle regime that can’t stand seeing on television even the least of disagreements. What lack of self confidence.

    Posted by AIG | March 30, 2011, 2:05 pm
  55. Here’s a summary in English of what he had to say,

    http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/getstory?openform&9598B25D5A3D4274C2257863004A6F27

    But the arabic version was more lively, and it featured a unique precendent of being interactive with so-called MP’s taking turns at interrupting the speech in order to recite poems of praise they composed especially for the occasion,

    http://www.14march.org/news-details.php?nid=Mjg1NzE2

    Posted by anonymous | March 30, 2011, 2:12 pm
  56. Thanks R2D2.
    All: checkout the comments section on Syriacomment.com
    Former supporters are now expressing disappointment. Clearly, Pres. Assad has let a lot of people down in this speech.
    Norman is still arguing that the Pres. needs to be given time because any concessions now would have been seen as the beginning of capitulation and trigger a downward spiral as for Mubarak. But others disagreed.
    I’m not an expert on Syria but judging the chess game with the perceptiveness that an observer might have and which players might not, I see this development as very negative for the Pres. Failing to put forth at least a hint of concession is likely to precipitate and crystallize the opposition.
    Like others here I hope and pray that Lebanon is spared any stray bullets from that fight.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | March 30, 2011, 2:13 pm
  57. HP,

    We’ll be lucky if its just stray bullets.. the major battle will be fought in Lebanon, I think Syria and Iran will soon cash in the HA card and start a major war in the region starting in Lebanon.

    Posted by V | March 30, 2011, 2:19 pm
  58. No surprise here.
    Narcissistic empty suit acts like….a narcissistic empty suit.
    The Palace battles are raging on in the Assad Clan of assassins. Asef Shawkat is chafing…and Maher is a raging butcher… A Coup D’etat is not to be excluded.

    Posted by HK | March 30, 2011, 2:30 pm
  59. V,

    What can they gain from the war and how can Syria know it will exit unscathed from it?
    Plus, a loss for Syria in the war could hasten the demise of the regime. I agree that Assad would love a limited war involving Hezbollah and Israel. The thing is, he cannot guarantee that he will not be dragged in or that Lebanon will be not trashed completely, two outcomes that he doesn’t want.

    Posted by AIG | March 30, 2011, 2:40 pm
  60. My view is that there will be no such thing as limited war for Lebanon. The minute HA becomes foolish enough to cause trouble for Israel is the minute 72 hours are triggered at the end of which Lebanon is a wasteland and there is no longer such a thing as military wing of HA.

    Similarly, but perhaps less clearly, Syria and/or Iran could be flattened and not a country in the world will give a hoot about that. Not Russia, not China, not North Korea. They each have their own interests to preserve and while they may bark there won’t be a single bite in the defense of those regimes.

    I would think that Pres. Assad is smart enough to know all this. History has shown him to be wise on those fronts, like for example not raising a pinky during the 2006 war. Even Ahmadinejad and the military commanders in Iran know better.

    The only potential victim here is Lebanon. Again!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | March 30, 2011, 2:56 pm
  61. What the f*#k kind of a world do we live in … in which a%$holes like Bashar or the entire Lebanese political class think they know what needs to be pulled to make the world a safe and sound one for my and your children?

    Posted by R2D2 | March 30, 2011, 3:12 pm
  62. 12th Imam NewZ

    The minute HA becomes foolish enough to cause trouble for Israel is the minute 72 hours are triggered at the end of which Lebanon is a wasteland and there is no longer such a thing as military wing of HA.

    Maybe we can make use of HK and ask him to intercede for us.

    But seriously, from our recent experience, the “military wing of HA” will grow and become stronger, while the Lebanese will grow weaker.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 30, 2011, 3:23 pm
  63. AIG,

    I believe a war and even if Syria is directly hit will solidify Assad’s grip and no one will dare challenge him. Opposition or others will simply disappear. Ironically such a war will serve every dictator in the region not just Iran and Syria but also Saudi Arabia and the so called pro-western moderates. The Arabs desperately need their enemy.

    Posted by V | March 30, 2011, 3:50 pm
  64. V,

    But why would Assad and many in his regime expect to emerge alive out of this war? Why will the Republican Guard stay intact? Why would Assad expect to have one power plant working after such war and how will he rebuild after it?

    Again, I agree that Assad would love a limited war. But that is off the table. Assad cannot afford to risk war.

    Posted by AIG | March 30, 2011, 3:59 pm
  65. Only Israel can save Assad.

    Posted by Nadim Shehadi | March 30, 2011, 4:06 pm
  66. #67

    Israel IS saving Assad!!

    Posted by danny | March 30, 2011, 4:07 pm
  67. AIG-

    In our old world people don’t rebel against their leaders if the power stations are hit by Israel and the infrastructure is decimated, we saw what that did to the HA popular base in South Lebanon during 06, Syria is no different it isn’t the west were we can question the wisdom of whatever action the administration takes or decide to vote it out.

    Posted by V | March 30, 2011, 4:22 pm
  68. And if history taught us anything since 1967 they WILL emerge alive. 🙂

    Posted by V | March 30, 2011, 4:24 pm
  69. While you were all watching Syria and Assad, The Resistance were the only ones protecting Lebanon. That is why they are the ones entitled to bear arms in Lebanon’s defense.

    Posted by dontgetit | March 30, 2011, 8:00 pm
  70. Totally agree with you Dontgetit – there is also a rumour that Amal and Hizballah are calling for a demonstration IN LONDON in support of Bashar el Assad on Sunnday at the same time as a syrian anti-regime demo.

    Is that possible? and will the Awnis and PSP join? Would love to see this.

    Posted by Nadim Shehadi | March 30, 2011, 10:59 pm

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