Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Syria: the national monologue

Bashar al-Assad presented himself as the fulcrum of change, but in reality the ironwork is firmly jammed

guardian.co.uk, Monday 20 June 2011

"President Bashar al-Assad yesterday addressed the nation for the third time since the uprising began three months ago, promising what would have been, 98 days ago, an ambitious and far-reaching programme of reform. He continued to call the demonstrations a conspiracy fomented by foreign enemies. To the growing list of epithets he has used in the past to describe the people being shot at – vandals, saboteurs, Muslim extremists, wanted criminals – he added another one: "germs"....

For some weeks, the Syrian opposition has been saying that a point of no return has been reached. The fury the speech generated among Syrians at home and abroad appears to confirm the view that the uprising is indeed unstoppable. Assad can inflame passions, but no longer has the ability to quench them. On the day he called for a national dialogue, the idea of dialogue is dead. Nor can Assad persuade some of the 10,500 refugees in Turkey to return home. After the fighting at Jisr al-Shughour, where streets were raked with indiscriminate machine-gun fire, the idea that security forces exist to protect residents, rather than mow them down, is treated with derision.

Senior army commanders will eventually decide Assad's fate. But they are not there yet, and Assad will continue to think all he has to do is to dangle vague promises of a brighter future. Yesterday, he presented himself as the fulcrum of change in his country. The reality is the ironwork is firmly jammed, and will not move again until he goes."

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