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Terrorism & Security

Assad speech resoundingly dismissed by opposition and allies (+video)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public speech yesterday that, outside the regime, is seen as offering nothing more than many more months of violence.

By Staff writer / January 7, 2013

In this photo, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gestures as he speaks at the Opera House in central Damascus, Syria, Sunday. In his speech, Assad outlined a new peace initiative that includes a national reconciliation conference and a new government and constitution but demanded regional and Western countries stop funding and arming rebels first.

SANA/AP

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Europe Editor

Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor.  He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog.  He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.

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Syria's opposition and its supporters in the West dismissed President Bashar al-Assad's rare speech yesterday as nothing new, though analysts warn that it indicates that the Syrian strongman intends to hold his present, defiant course against the rebels and that no end to the nearly two-year-old conflict is in sight.

The National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, which the US and Europe have recognized as the representative of the Syrian people, called the speech "a pre-emptive strike against both Arab and international diplomatic solutions" and proof of Mr. Assad's "incompetence as a head of state," reports Al Jazeera English.

[The speech] demonstrates that [Assad] is incapable of initiating a political solution that puts forward a resolution for the country’s struggle and an exit for his regime with minimum losses because he cannot see himself and his narrow based rule except as remaining in power despite being rejected by his people and his traditional allies.

Assad repeated the talk about a national unity government, a national dialogue, and a new constitution – which is an acknowledgement of the failure and illegitimacy of the constitution that was passed and prepared under the supervision of his regime- at the same time as his militias commit massacres against the residents across Syria.

Similarly, Syria's Local Coordination Committees said, through spokesman Omar Idlibi, that Assad's comments were "an attempt to legalize the liquidation of whoever opposes the regime, along with their popular civilian grassroots."

Assad's speech yesterday was his first in seven months, writes Agence France-Presse, but offered "little realistic prospect of ending what has become a civil war." Although Assad proffered what he said was a diplomatic solution to the conflict, including an end to the violence and dialogue with "loyal opposition," he dismissed most of those aligned against his government as "a gang of killers" of foreign nationality and backing.

“The one thing that is sure [is] that those who we face today are those who carry the Al Qaeda ideology,” he said.

The West widely dismissed his comments, Al Jazeera notes. The US State Department called his speech "detached from reality," and "another attempt by the regime to cling to power and does nothing to advance the Syrian people’s goal of a political transition."

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