Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Assad faces his people's hatred – but as their anger grows, his excuses are still just the same

By Robert Fisk

"......So far, then, so good. Assad also promised a referendum on the constitution around March and elections mid-year. The problem, of course, is two-fold. Although President Assad was giving his first public address in six months, it contained little new. The foreign plotters, the Arab states under foreign pressure, the threat to hit the regime's armed enemies with "an iron fist", are statements that we have all heard before.

What has changed, however, is the extent and speed of the deterioration in Syria, an ever more blood-curdling battle in which Assad's opponents are ever more heavily armed and readier to assault the regime's forces. The "Free Syria Army" or the "Free Army" is steadily growing in size, although it will not be taken seriously by its armourers unless whole Syrian military units defect.

Assad's government, however, has still found itself unable to deal with the news side of the crisis. By allowing few international journalists to enter the country, officials have allowed the stunning YouTube images of the opposition to lead public opinion. When Al Jazeera can broadcast a Muslim imam in a crowded mosque shouting "Assad's soldiers – God curse them – say Assad is their God; if that doesn't make you angry, what will?" and then give specific details of protesters' demonstration tactics in a suburb of Damascus, the Syrian Ministry of Information has a real problem....."

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