Takeaway from Assad's speech? There will be no meaningful dialogue. (+video)(Read article summary)
President Bashar al-Assad's first speech in months dashed any hopes that a negotiated settlement to the Syrian civil war was soon possible.
At the end of last year Mr. Brahimi said he only saw two choices for Syria: "Either there will be a political solution that will meet the ambitions and legitimate rights of the Syrian people, or Syria will turn into hell." In essence, Mr. Assad responded to Brahimi's warning today by saying: "Then let it be hell."
Already, the UN estimates at least 60,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad's Baathist regime began in March 2011. The chances were already slim that the opposition – a disparate group of exiled dissidents, local militias, and foreign jihadis – would agree to peace talks on terms acceptable to Assad and his loyalists. Assad laid out a series of demands for the rebellion today guaranteed to give them no other option but to fight on.
The Syrian strongman spoke today, amid rapturous chanting from loyalists that they are with him with "all their blood and soul," of a reconciliation conference followed by a new constitution to be voted on by the nation. But only after a series of impossible-to-meet conditions are met: when fighting against his government stops and when his army regains full control of the country's territory and borders. In other words, after the complete defeat of the uprising, which he deemed "terrorism" and insisted is entirely the work of foreigners – the United States and the Sunni Arab monarchies of the Gulf.