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Takeaway from Assad's speech? There will be no meaningful dialogue. (+video)

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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.

It was a defiant speech reminiscent of his earlier ones, those of his father, former President Hafez al-Assad – and of Muammar Qaddafi in the waning months of his failed effort to survive his own uprising in 2011. He ruled out talks with "extremists" who know "nothing but the language of blood." Since he has defined all of those taking up arms against his government as "extremists" and terrorists, that would seem to rule out negotiations with anyone that matters on the other side of Syria's civil war. In his words, the rebels are "killers and criminals."

To be sure, anyone going into a negotiation would want to do so from a position of strength. It's possible that Assad is striking a maximalist, defiant tone in public while entertaining compromises behind the scenes. But there were no indications of even a moderation of tone toward his opponents, routinely described as "terrorists" or agents of foreign powers, which would usually be taken as a signal that some sort of overture was being made.

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