Monty Python Is in Charge of Syria
A defiant Syrian President Bashar Assad rallied a chanting and cheering crowd Sunday to fight the uprising against his authoritarian rule, dismissing any chance of dialogue with “murderous criminals” that he blames for nearly two years of violence that has left 60,000 dead.
In his first public speech in six months, Assad laid out terms for a peace plan that keeps himself in power, ignoring international demands to step down and pledging to continue the battle “as long as there is one terrorist left” in Syria.
“What we started will not stop,” he said, standing at a lectern on stage at the regal Opera House in central Damascus — a sign by the besieged leader that he sees no need to hide or compromise even with the violent civil war closing in on his seat of power in the capital.
The theater was packed with his supporters who interrupted the speech with applause, cheers and occasional fist-waving chants, including “God, Bashar and Syria!”
The overtures that Assad offered — a national reconciliation conference, elections and a new constitution — were reminiscent of symbolic changes and concessions offered previously in the uprising that began in March 2011. Those were rejected at the time as too little, too late.
The government last year adopted a constitution that theoretically allows political parties to compete with Assad’s ruling Baath Party. It carried out parliamentary elections that were boycotted by his opponents.
Assad demanded that regional and Western countries must stop funding and arming the rebels trying to overthrow him.
“We never rejected a political solution … but with whom should we talk? With those who have an extremist ideology, who only understand the language of terrorism? “Or should we with negotiate puppets whom the West brought?” he asked.
“We negotiate with the master, not with the slave,” he answered.
As in previous speeches and interviews, he clung to the view that the crisis was a foreign-backed plot and not an uprising against him and his family’s decades-long rule.
“Is this a revolution and are these revolutionaries? By God, I say they are a bunch of criminals,” he said.
I’ll give you a moment to wipe Assad’s flop sweat from your computer screens before I continue.
Done? Good. I will leave it to others to decide whether Assad is still stuck on the denial phase, or whether he has moved on to anger, but unless something drastic changes, it can safely be concluded that his attempt to rally support to his regime will be proven to be laughably inept. One thing perhaps worth mentioning is the fact that the regime in Iran remains committed to propping up Assad’s governmental terror apparatus. If nation-states who oppose Assad’s regime want to kill two birds with one stone, they may be tempted to allow the conflict in Syria to continue for a while longer so as to simultaneously bleed Iran given Iran’s continued willingness to try to help Assad survive. It is, after all, doubtful that the regime in Iran will realize anytime soon that the sunk cost fallacy might apply here; Syria has practically become a satellite state for Iran and if Assad is replaced by a government less friendly to Tehran, it would serve as a brutal blow for the regime, so I don’t foresee Tehran cutting its losses in the near future, or even well down the road. Thus, the longer the civil war in Syria rages, the more Iranian power and influence will suffer.
It goes without saying that the above analysis will strike lots of people as unbelievably callous. The situation in Syria is nothing short of horrific thanks to the civil war and the brutal atrocities that have been carried out by the Assad regime, and one certainly ought to feel for ordinary Iranians who may well detest the regime in Tehran but who are made to suffer thanks to the regime’s many foreign policy miscalculations. But I am not the first person to have come up with this analysis, I won’t be the last, and even if I don’t mention this line of thinking on this blog, the fact is that it arises naturally from the realities on the ground.