Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Assad was reading from the same script as Ben Ali and Mubarak

Syrian protesters can draw consolation from the fact that the fallen Tunisian and Egyptian dictators used similar language

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
guardian.co.uk, Monday 20 June 2011

"When Bashar al-Assad made his third speech in response to Syrian protests on Monday, much of his rhetoric was oddly familiar to observers of the past few months of the Arab spring.

As if reading from the same dictators' playbook, Assad's address had the same mix of promises and threats, concrete plans and conspiracy theories, as those of other leaders before him in their attempts to save their jobs.

Syrian opposition activists drew some consolation from the fact that two recently ousted Arab leaders, Tunisia's Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, had each given three speeches that failed to satisfy their people before their downfalls. Perhaps, the rebels suggested, the "three strikes and you're out" rule would apply to Assad too.....

Much of Assad's speech could easily have been made by Ben Ali, Mubarak or Gaddafi.

The Syrian leader likened alleged conspiracies against him to "germs"; Gaddafi referred to rebels as "vermin". Assad sought to draw a distinction between a population with some legitimate complaints and a small minority of criminals, Muslim extremists and foreign conspirators. Gaddafi has labelled his opponents al-Qaida jihadists, adding his own idiosyncratic variant that the protests were fuelled by milk and Nescafé spiked with hallucinogenic drugs. In Egypt, Mubarak also warned his country that "there is a fine line between freedom and chaos", hinting darkly at the "larger scheme" underlying the Egyptian protests, manipulated by unseen forces bent on undermining the country's stability and legitimacy.

It is an odd choice of tactics, considering how poorly it worked for Ben Ali....

Assad has given no hint of any readiness to leave the scene and, on that score, appears to have decided that Gaddafi's uncompromising example has, for now at least, shown better results."

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