Assad’s Speech Is Best Answer to Foreign Agenda
The latest speech of Syrian president Bashar Assad was a very strong attempt to appear as a “leader of the people” whether it be the venue or the content. The Syrian president spoke from the University of Damascus, a much more people-related venue then his previous two speeches which were made in political arena’s (one at the Syrian parliamentary building and the other made to members of a newly formed government).The venue of this speech also allowed for university teachers and more importantly students to attend.(the latter is very important as it will play the main role in shaping Syria’s future).
In content, as someonewho did live simultaneous interpretation of this speech I could not help but notice how much the Syrian leader was attempting to connect to the people. He mentioned more times than I can count his meetings with popular delegations from different provinces and how HE listened first hand to their grievances and complaints. He also focused on giving THE PEOPLE a big say in the process of national dialogue (instead of the dialogue being between the ruling authority and the opposition parties) and in building “this new phase” as he described it.(notice here that Assad recognizes that a new phase in Syria is indispensable).But perhaps what is the most noteworthy of all is what Assad chose NOT to focus on.
At the beginning of his speech he clearly stated he would not talk of the foreign or outside element in his speech. By not focusing on the foreign pressures or on foreign meddling in the internal affairs of Damascus and instead on the problems and grievances of Syrian citizens, Assad leaves no room for doubt that he recognizes there are serious INTERNAL matters that have to be addressed which are not related to foreign players or their policies towards Syria. (Hence Assad does not use the same language normally used by other regional leaders who attribute all their woes to foreign, outside factors).
Assad’s words have also been accompanied by action. Just one day after the speech he granted a general amnesty as he had promised. Prior to that he had also lifted the state of emergency law and also passed a law to allow for PEACEFUL protests. Despite this however we continue to hear the same old language from the west: “words are not enough and must be accompanied by actions” and “Assad must lead the transitional phase or get out of the way”. In order to really understand this one must merely look at the statements of Israeli officials. In an interview with the French Le-figaro newspaper “Israeli” defense minister Ehud Barak made it clear saying that “if Assad falls, this would deal a severe blow to Iran and Hizbullah”. This severe blow he says will very much weaken this Shiite group as he describes it. So the message is clear; Mr Assad…change your political alliances or we will continue to pressure you regardless of the reforms you make.
Another conclusion we can make from Barak’s statements is that Syria is viewed by Israel and its western allies as an arena to fight Iran and Hizbullah as well at the same time. It is from here that we can understand how much the “Israeli’s” and their western allies see this as an opportunity to turn the tables against the regional resistance bloc which has gained so much momentum over the past few years. I also sense by reading and listening to other statements that the plan is to divide Syria along sectarian lines if Assad does not heed to foreign demands (which he has made clear that he will not). I say “divide Syria along sectarian lines” because look at what western officials say about the situation there. Time and time again, the most recent being in an op-ed by US secretary of state Hilary Clinton in the SAUDI Al-Sharq Alawsat newspaper, these western officials use terms like “Assad is showing his true colors by embracing the repressive tactics of his ally Iran”.
Other times we hear talk of members of the Iranian revolutionary guards and of Hizbullah being involved in “clampdowns on protesters”. If we add to this Barak’s talk Assad’s fall weakening the “Shiite group” in the region it becomes crystal clear. Syria’s enemies are trying to portray the Syrian regime as part a Shiite alliance, bearing in mind that Bashar Assad and many of those in the ruling party happen to be Allawites. (a sect which is traditionally seen as close to the Shiites).So here we are looking at foreign efforts to ignite sectarian strife in a country where the Sunni majority just so happens not to have absolute power.(while Bahrain for example has a Shiite majority with absolutely no power).
Unfortunately I see that certain Sunni regimes at some level at least (like in Saudi Arabia) are on board this plot. Bashar Assad was hence right to focus on the people and their problems because by adopting such a language he more clearly and quickly uncovers this outside agenda.(regardless of reforms as we noted above the pressure continues).In the end these reforms and the “vigilance of the Syrian people” which Assad referred to in his speech will isolate those who are instigating the violence in Syria and keep the regional resistance bloc intact.