from Middle East Matters and Middle East Program

Assad in His Own Words

January 10, 2012

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Syria’s president Assad today vowed to use an “iron fist” to weed out “terrorists” and foreign conspiracies plaguing his country. That is his basic world outlook and his take on what is happening in Syria. Today’s speech, the fourth such one he has given to explain his policies since the uprisings in Syria began, was vintage Bashar.

This morning, as I read through his speech and looked at some of his other speeches from over the past decade, I was struck by his rhetoric’s absolute consistency and repetitiveness. What comes through repeatedly is a paranoid world view that is resistant to change, modification, and any real understanding of the challenges facing his country. Last month on "Middle East Matters," following his interview with Barbara Walters, I analyzed Assad’s circumlocutory style in addressing allegations of Syria’s misdeeds. Today, his own words themselves best illustrate  the recurring themes Assad invokes to explain and justify his rule and policies. These include:

Xenophobia combined with paranoia:

Foreign conspiracies are no longer a secret. What was being planned behind closed doors has become clear now. It was not easy at the beginning to explain what happened…Today, the mask of foreign parties aiming to harm Syria has been uncovered.

Unrest as the work of outside forces:

We are concerned about the internal situation and not letting it be affected by foreign schemes. However, we do not underestimate these foreign schemes. There were attempts to make the people reach a state of desperation… There is a foreign dream to divide Syria. The defeat of Syria is something we will not allow.

Resentment toward (and superiority over) the other Arab states:

The question is why did the Arabs stand against Syria and not with it?  We should not be surprised by the Arab League’s position. The Arab League reflects the Arab countries’ miserable situation. It is taking the bad Arab situation toward a worse one. Did the Arab League respect its charter? Did it prevent the division of Sudan? Did it feed one hungry person in Somalia? This is the age of Arab degradation.

Assad’s rule as legitimate:

I said in the year 2000 that I am not after high-ranking positions. We are talking about responsibility. I am in this position as president upon the people’s request and support.

Syria as the avatar of Arabism:

The Arab League without Syria’s membership suspends the ‘Arabism’ of the league. If they think that with money they can buy history, we tell them that money does not invent civilizations. Maybe we are more free to practice our Arabism.

Antipathy toward the media:

The media attacks against Syria aim to defeat us.  There are more than sixty world channels, websites, and newspapers dedicated to harming Syria’s image.

Assad as a genuine reformer:

The foreign part of the scheme is against reform because reform makes Syria stronger. We all know that a stronger Syria is something they are against because they are against Syria’s policy. What is the component that concerns us?  The Syrian people. Most of the Syrian people want reform. Reform to us is the normal sequence.

On ending Syria’s crisis:

When and how will the crisis end? The conspiracy ends when we give up and become submissive. It ends when we stop supporting resistance against Israel. It ends when we give up on our stances on the Palestinian cause. It ends when we accept to be false witnesses… Anyone who participates in chaos is participating in terrorism and in bloodshed...

Assad’s words provide a window into the man’s worldview. It is unwavering. This is not someone who is adjusting well to the new realities within his country, or the forces sweeping the Middle East. While still relatively young, Assad clearly is locked into an antiquated perspective that will not change. He will not provide solutions. He is the heart of the problem, as his words so clearly demonstrate.

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