Assad's 'peace' plan 'detached from reality'
The State Department on Sunday derided Syrian President Bashar Assad's latest initiative to end the 21 months of violence as “detached from reality.”
Although Assad's speech was billed as the introduction of a new peace plan, he offered no concessions and even appeared to harden many of his positions, Reuters reported. He rallied Syrians for “a war to defend the nation” and disparaged the prospect of negotiations.
“We do not reject political dialogue ... but with whom should we hold a dialogue? With extremists who don't believe in any language but killing and terrorism?” Assad asked supporters who packed Damascus Opera House for his first speech since June.
The speech was punctuated by thunderous applause and loyalist chants from a carefully selected audience, the London-based Guardian newspaper reported. The city was described as being under a security lockdown before the event, and Internet services were disconnected.
Appearing pale and weary but defiant, Assad outlined suggestions for what he called a period of “transition,” in which a new government would be formed, a “national pact” would be drafted and a referendum would be held.
But at the same time he offered no hint that he is willing to cede power, and he made it clear that he was not prepared to negotiate either with the exiled Syrian opposition factions or the rebels fighting on the ground, whom he mocked as Islamic radicals supportive of al-Qaida and Western “puppets.”
“They are the enemies of God, and they will go to hell,” he said of the rebels.
The most lasting image from Assad's appearance may have been caught moments after his speech, the BBC reported. Dozens of supporters surged toward the president — conjuring up what could happen if the opposition got to him. The president waved and struggled to leave the stage. For Syria's opposition, that is the entire problem.
Louay Safi, a member of the umbrella National Coalition opposition group, called the speech a “waste of time.”
“He said nothing constructive,” Safi told the al-Jazeera English television network.
In Washington, state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland agreed, characterizing the speech as “yet another attempt by the regime to cling to power.”
She said Assad's initiative “is detached from reality” and repeated calls for him to leave office.
Assad's speech was “beyond hypocritical,” Britain's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, commented on Twitter. “Deaths, violence and oppression engulfing Syria are his own making, empty promises of reform fool no one.”
More than 60,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011.
Even Egypt's president, Mohamed Morsy, put more pressure on Assad on Sunday, telling CNN that he supported calls for the Syrian leader to be tried for war crimes.
“The Syrian people ... will decide what they want to do to those who committed crimes against them,” Morsy told Wolf Blitzer in Cairo.
Morsy, too, repeated his previous calls for Assad to leave power.
The timing of the speech was significant. Assad's army has lost control over a large swath of territory in the north and east of the country. The rebels have steadily been making small but significant military gains that have clearly put pressure on the regime and on Syria's key allies to intensify efforts to find a negotiated settlement.
In his speech, Assad thanked Russia, China and Iran for supporting Syria in the face of hostility from the United States, Britain and France.
“Syria is impervious to collapse and the Syrian people impervious to humiliation,” he concluded. “We will always be like that. Hand in hand we will move ahead, taking Syria to a brighter and stronger future.”
The Washington Post and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Germanwings flight co-pilot Lubitz worried about job security, officials say
- Dickens’ desk to go on permanent display museum
- Siberian theater director fired over Wagner opera
- Impasse remains in Iran nuke talks
- Nigerians vote despite violence, technical hitches
- Air Canada plane skids off Halifax runway in hard landing
- Suspect in Tunisian museum attack killed
- Antarctica yields life in extremest of conditions, so what about on another planet?
- IAEA says Iran won’t answer nuke questions
- Saudi-led attacks seen as escalating violence in Yemen
- Iran poses top threat to Mideast stability, Israeli consul general says