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Syrian President Assad Vows to Crush Opposition
January 11, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly

In a rare public appearance at a rally in Damascus on January 11, Syrian President Bashar Assad assured his supporters of the regime’s ability to put down the opposition. According to the Associated Press, he told the crowd, “I have that faith in the future and we will undoubtedly triumph over this conspiracy.” These comments echoed Assad’s January 10 speech at Damascus University, in which he blamed the international media, terrorists and foreign conspiracies for the “mayhem” that has swept the country.

As reported by the Washington Post, Assad also verbally attacked the Arab League, accusing it of acting on behalf of the West and Israel. Assad pledged to use an “iron fist” to crush the opposition, calling it a group of “terrorists.” He displayed confidence even under international pressure to relax the crackdown and introduce reforms. The last time Assad gave a live, televised speech, was in June 2011.

In analyzing Assad’s January 10 speech, Patrick Seale, an expert on Syria, told Al Jazeera that the tone was not “totally uncompromising.” Assad mentioned putting a new constitution to referendum, holding new elections and forming a new government. Seale then went on to comment, “I would say that he remains very much in control. I wouldn’t say he is frightened, because the opposition is not in a position to topple him.” Opposition leaders referred to the speech as “incitement to violence” and an indication of the regime’s dismissal of the international community.

Since the Arab League’s monitors arrived in Syria three weeks ago, more than 400 people have died in clashes with security forces according to United Nations (UN) officials. On January 9, 11 monitors suffered minor injuries during separate attacks in the cities of Latakia and Deir al-Zour. The Arab League responded with a statement blaming the government for “failing to provide adequate protection” in “serious violation… of its commitments.” According to the New York Times, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates blamed “non-opposition elements” for the incidents.

Opposition activists believe the monitors have done nothing to curb the violence and wish to refer the situation to the UN Security Council. According to CNN, an ex-member of the monitoring team, Anwar Malek, told Al Jazeera that he quit the team for “providing the regime cover for more killing.” Malek claims to have seen burnt bodies that had undergone torture, skinned bodies, children murdered and people shot by snipers. He said the team is not an independent monitoring body and that the head of the monitors, Sudanese Lt. Gen. Mohamed al-Dabi, discouraged the team from speaking to the media about what they saw. Lt. Gen. al-Dabi said the situation is not as bad as Malek claims.

Overall, there is no end in sight to the current conflict. Although the opposition seems strong, pro-regime rallies in Damascus and Aleppo are still heavily attended by thousands of supporters. Patrick Seale summarized the situation to Al Jazeera, “The problems are how to stop the killings, and how are the Syrians going to be able to live together after this bloodletting.”

For previous news on Syria, please see:
Pressure on Syria Increases as Arab League Imposes Economic Sanctions

Sources:    
Associated Press - Syria's Assad Makes Rare Appearance at Rally

The Washington Post - Syria’s Assad vows ‘iron fist’ against opposition

CNN - Ex-Arab League monitor slams Syria mission

Al Jazeera - Syrian leader blames 'foreign interference'

The New York Times - Syrian Leader Vows ‘Iron Fist’ to Crush ‘Conspiracy’

 

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