A feisty President Bashar Al Assad of Syria said on Monday there could be no reform in Syria in the face of “sabotage and chaos,” as he addressed the nation in his first speech in two months.
Mr. Assad, whose brutal campaign against pro-democracy protesters has appalled much of the civilized world, said Syria was now at a “turning point” after “difficult days,” and promised it would emerge stronger in the face of the “plotting” against it.
Offering his condolences to the families of “martyrs” from the unrest rocking the country since mid-March, Mr. Assad said there could be “no development without stability, no reform in the face of sabotage and chaos.”
“Today we stand at a decisive moment in the history of our country, a moment that we want through our determination and our will to mark the turning point between a yesterday full of troubles and pain in which innocent blood was shed ... and a tomorrow full of hope,” he said.
“We make a distinction between those (with legitimate grievances) and the saboteurs who represent a small group which has tried to exploit the goodwill of the Syrian people for its own ends,” said Mr. Assad.
“I don’t think there has been a single day when Syria has not been the target of plotting whether that be for geopolitical reasons or because of its political positions,” he said.
Mr. Assad also said that national dialogue would begin soon, after an agreement on the mechanisms has been reached. He also said he would ask the Justice Ministry to study expanding a recent amnesty, but said it was important to differentiate between “saboteurs” and people with legitimate demands.
It seems unlikely that his unyielding speech would be accepted by his critics. Mr. Assad seems certain to face more protests in Syria, and more condemnations from the world community. But in his speech, he did not give an impression that he cared.
(Sara Ghasemilee, a senior editor with Al Arabiya English, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)