Thursday, March 31, 2011
Al Jazeera's senior analyst deciphers whether the Syrian president's speech was historical or merely political.
"Did Syrian president Assad meet the high expectations ahead of his speech?
No he didn't. Syrian officials had promised a historical speech. Instead, we were treated to a bombastic political speech interrupted by more of the same parliamentary chorus of support for the 'brother leader'. It must have been disappointing for those hoping, at a minimum, for the lifting of the brutal emergency regulations that de facto ban all political dissent, never mind the other urgent political and economic demands. Anything but humbled by recent unrest, the president was either in denial over the widespread opposition to his regime, or indifferent to the authenticity of calls for better living conditions, an end to the systemic corruption and paternalism, as well as the need for urgent political reforms.
What explains the hesitation when the president claims that reforms have already been adopted?
Assad has repeatedly claimed that his country wasn't exactly ready for democracy. Some explain that perhaps he's not ready to abdicate total power......
Moreover, internationally, statements coming from Washington haven't been that menacing. In fact, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, spoke of the destructive Libyan regime, but of the potentially reforming Syrian presidency. Likewise, Europeans who have been overzealous on Libya and the use of military intervention, have been silent on Syria and its own internal unrest......
What does that mean to the future of reform in the country?
.....But it seems there is never a good time for reform in Syria. Indeed, events from 9/11 to the 2008 Israeli invasion of Gaza, through the invasion of Iraq, and the 2005-2007 complications in Lebanon have been counted by the president as reasons for not instituting reforms. Assad reckoned that he would gain his people's loyalty as long as he satisfied, at least symbolically, their national Pan Arab aspirations. Indeed, he long argued that Syria is different from Egypt and Tunisia because of its unique Pan Arab struggles. In reality, Arabs can't live on or by national slogans. Pan Arabism is a mere mirage if not motivated by, and translated into, concrete political and economic freedoms and prosperity for each and every individual Arab nation. That's what the Arab revolution is all about and Syria, as Assad likes to claim, is part and parcel of the Arab world."