Bashar Assad gave his fourth speech to the Syrian people since the beginning of the uprising, but the reaction, judging by statements of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and some YouTube videos is very clear. The embattled president speaks to himself and to the handpicked audience in the University of Damascus, but not to the people. They have already written him off politically, and nothing will change it. Yes, the regime still hangs on, but without any new cards to play with. The inevitable final collapse may be later in coming than predicted, also in this blog, but the die was cast, and what has to happen will.
The speech was a repetition of all the silly stories that it is just one big foreign conspiracy, though it is not specified who is exactly behind it, and for a change, even Israel was not being blamed. Surely, the Israeli leadership feels relieved; but on a more serious note, it is interesting to mention a report, according to which Bashar Assad sent a signal to Israel that he was still interested in resuming peace talks. It is very doubtful whether even a desperate leader like Assad will indulge in such ridiculous initiative, and it is much more important to be tuned to what Israeli officials say about the situation in Syria.
The latest came from Chief-of-Staff Gantz, who raised in the Foreign and Security Affairs Committee of the Knesset the possibility that the impending downfall of the regime will unleash a wave of Alawites seeking refuge in Israel... No, this was not meant as an insult to the Alawite regime in Damascus, rather as a reminder to the Israeli public that in the shifting sands of the Middle East things can happen which may seem totally unrealistic. It was in 1970, at the height of Black September massacre of Palestinians in Jordan, that hundreds of Palestinians asked for refuge in Israel...
More important statement than that of General Gantz came from PM Erdogan of Turkey, just hours ahead of Assad's speech. The Turkish leader reiterated his country's commitment to continue supporting the Syrian opposition. Erdogan finally let the sectarian genie out of the bottle, when specifically stating that the carnage in Syria could deteriorate to a religious war. The truth is that the sectarian/religious character of the uprising was much on display since the beginning of the uprising, but Arab and Muslim leaders have been at pains to downplay this obvious feature of the situation. Turkey, from the mouth of Erdogan, simply stating the obvious, and this is coming few days after the talks held in Tehran between FM Davotuglu and Iranian officials. There was no word after these talks whether the Sunni Turkish leader alerted the Shi'ite Iranian leaders to the concerns of PM Erdogan. What is not in doubt is the fact that Turkey does not just talk. The Army of Free Syria under Colonel Ryad Asa'ad is gathering momentum and is developing into a real credible challenge to the Alawite forces of the regime.
Both the Free Army and the Turks openly admit, that the Syrian rebels are assisted by the Turkish Army. This support amounts to the creation of a buffer zone along the border between the two countries. Such a zone, the establishment of which was long anticipated in this blog, may not be formally declared as such, but it is for all intents and purposes. The Syrian regime is fully aware of this state of affairs, and few days ago sources close to the regime leaked to Dunya TV that retaliatory action against Turkey is very possible and there could be bombs also in Istanbul. Clearly, a clumsy self-defeating attempt to implicitly blame Turkey for the explosions in Damascus which claimed dozens of casualties. It just so happens that there is mounting evidence that these explosions were the work of Syrian intelligence agents, as part of a campaign to justify Bashar Assad's claims that his regime fights foreign terrorists, and not his own people.
Today's speech by the falling dictator was full of this charge, but for no avail. The dictator has missed the boat, so far as initiating real, credible reforms is concerned. According to some reports, the Russian ships which visited the port of Tartus left Syrian waters. Many Syrians hoped that they will take Bashar with them.
They did not. Did the dictator miss these boats as well?