In his latest public speech, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad sounded a lot more like the late Colonel Qaddafi, who threatened to crush his opponents mercilessly. Where Qaddafi threatened to go door-to-door, house-to-house, and alley-to-alley – and made good on his threats – Assad is now saying he will crush his opponents with an “iron hand.” Assad started off in the early stages of the Syrian uprising sounding very delusional and detached from the reality on the ground, to the point of making ridiculous claims in his interview with Barbara Walters a few weeks ago. He attempted to dissociate his presidency from the authority and responsibility of giving orders to, and controlling, the state security forces. But, he fooled no one.
However, Assad’s latest 110-minute speech in Damascus manifests a shift in his rhetoric towards an even more threatening stance, which by the way contradicts what he said in the Walters interview, and now puts him in a similar light as Qaddafi. Whereas Qaddafi referred to the opposition as “rats, cockroaches, and Al Qaeda terrorists on drugs,” Assad labeled his opposition as “terrorists, murderers, criminals.”
The critical question for the international community is whether or not the “R2P” (Responsibility to Protect civilians) UN mandate applies to the Syrian case. With 5,000+ casualties (mostly civilians), the protesters in Syria have been pleading with the international community to apply the R2P mandate and protect them from Assad’s ruthless crackdown.
But, Syria is not Libya, and even in Libya, with its much smaller size and less formidable military compared to Syria, it took NATO and the rebels several long months to achieve their missions, and for the regime to fall. Syria is a different nut to crack. You can compare the military strength between Syria and Libya at Global Firepower: http://www.globalfirepower.com/. Plus, one must consider Syria’s powerful allies, Iran and Russia, as a January 10th article in the Globe and Mail describes:
“The Syrian President still has powerful allies like Russia, five of whose naval vessels docked on the weekend at the Syrian port of Tartous, where the Russians maintain a base.”
Nonetheless, Assad clearly is not applying lessons learned from the 2011 Arab uprisings and revolts. Perhaps denial and delusions of grandeur and invincibility are in the DNA of dictators.
NOTE: Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views.