Assad's speech yesterday was his first in seven months, writes Agence France-Presse, but offered "little realistic prospect of ending what has become a civil war." Although Assad proffered what he said was a diplomatic solution to the conflict, including an end to the violence and dialogue with "loyal opposition," he dismissed most of those aligned against his government as "a gang of killers" of foreign nationality and backing.
“The one thing that is sure [is] that those who we face today are those who carry the Al Qaeda ideology,” he said.
The West widely dismissed his comments, Al Jazeera notes. The US State Department called his speech "detached from reality," and "another attempt by the regime to cling to power and does nothing to advance the Syrian people’s goal of a political transition."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague tweeted that it was "beyond hypocritical. Deaths, violence and oppression engulfing Syria are his own making, empty promises of reform fool no one." And German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that the speech "contains no new insights."
What Assad's speech does indicate, writes the Monitor's Dan Murphy, is that there will be no negotiated solution to the Syrian civil war. "Assad laid out a series of demands for the rebellion today guaranteed to give them no other option but to fight on."
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."