Another deeply disappointing speech by Bashar al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gives a speech at Damascus University in Syria on Monday.
June 20th, 2011
05:27 PM ET

Another deeply disappointing speech by Bashar al-Assad

Editor's Note: Andrew Tabler is a Next Generation Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of the upcoming book In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle with Syria.

By Andrew Tabler – Special to CNN

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s speech at Damascus University on June 20 was another disappointing attempt to quell three months of anti-regime protests sweeping Syria. While recognizing some of the protestors had legitimate concerns, Assad continued to blame the lion’s share of the demonstrations on a “conspiracy” of “outlaws”, “vandals” and “takfiri extremists.”

Perhaps most offensively, Assad refused to recognize the regime’s brutal crackdown on the protesters.

Most notably, he dismissed “rumors related to the president and his family” – a reference to reports that his brother, Maher, was leading efforts to snuff out the demonstrations.

Also disappointing was Assad’s lack of specifics on what reform measures he is actually willing to implement.

On one level, the fact Assad dedicated his speech to themes of reform demonstrates that the Assad family is beginning to see the need for change under the pressure of growing anti-regime protests and international pressure from Turkey, France and the United States.

But instead of immediately implementing the measures by Presidential Decree – which he can do under Syria’s Presidential system – he chose to push responsibility for the decision into various committees ahead of a “National Dialogue” that he vaguely said will roll out sometime in the next two months.

Assad promised to address corruption (Transparency International’s figures show has skyrocketed under Assad's reign), a new law for elections, increased media freedoms and local administrative reform.

Assad also dangled the prospect of constitutional reforms as well in response to a “new political reality in Syria.”

Dissidents long struggling to break free of the ruling Ba’ath Party’s chokehold on legal political parties have demanded the repeal of Article 8 of the Syrian constitution, which stipulates that the Ba’ath leads state and society. All the measures Assad outlined have been under consideration by the regime for years, so its unclear what more discussion would be required for passage other than Assad's willingness to sign the measures into law.

In addressing the issue of why reform in Syria has been so slow, Assad said there was “no reason” – a reference to his speech on March 30 in which he dismissed the notion that a group of hardliners or “old guard” figures were holding Assad back.

Assad indicated that Syria’s parliamentary elections, which were originally set for August, may be rescheduled before the end of the year.

If fundamental constitutional reform doesn’t take place ahead of the poll that would allow those elections to be “free and fair,” the Assad’s Ba’ath Party will continue to dominate Syria’s parliament, guaranteeing that the democratic transition that the Syrian people now demand, and the Obama Administration supports, will not happen.

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Topics: Syria

soundoff (145 Responses)
  1. hamad

    Guys; i am Syrian, I was teacher,my salary is two hundred dollars only. I will tell you what i saw, what is happening in my country,
    there are a great deterioration and decay.the ruling family and al . Baath party are failed cannot develop the country.
    most of the leaders of community and government are Non educated solders and security that . the people of syria protest against the regime , we are Jobless and poor and no freedom we seek it . the regime accuse the protesters of being armed Gangs and terrorist . its a dictatorial regime that hates word freedom and democracy

    July 6, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Reply
    • marcob

      I understand your position hamad, and am sure many of the demonstrators are peaceful people asking for a change and more justice for everybody. But you also know there are unfortunately many violent demonstrations, and some of them do shoot on security forces (which alas, made atrocities also); Do you really think that putting Syria into chaos will bring a real solution to these problems. In fact the only solution is in a real economical growth of Syria, and social laws to try to have a better distribution of wealth in the country. But this can only happen if security and serenity comes back to Syria. Bachar have tried when he came to power (undemocratically I agree, but there was a necessity to have a President anyway),to open up the country and to put less corruption, he did not totally succeed, but some of his decisions did in fact brought growth to Syria. .Remember, Syria was rich enough to receive more than 1 million displaced irakian which no other arab countries did. Unfortunately not everybody took advantage of this growth and opposition opened the minds for people to find a solution. In my opinion for the benefit of Syria, people should accept the logic of a new deal that is proposed by the government. Because in final only economical growth can bring wealth to the largest part of the population, all other solutions are nonsence chatting. And there is no growth when a country is in chaos.

      July 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Reply
    • NonZionist

      I hope that Assad hears your grievances and finds a way to help you and your economy.

      If Syria were more democratic, there might be less strife. Everyone would be represented in government, and then you would be involved in making the economy better, or you would at least know why the economy is suffering.

      Like other living things, freedom and democracy require a climate of peace and stability to grow. Attempting to overthrow the government will produce the opposite result - more tyranny and repression. Syria will then become a failed state like post-war Iraq. War is the death of freedom.

      Freedom is something to live for, not something to kill for. Freedom lives and grows in the peaceful human heart, not in bombs and bullets. Working for freedom is helpful; killing for freedom is not.

      July 8, 2011 at 11:23 am | Reply
  2. Big

    Better Assad with his cronnism than the Islamic fundamentalists (Iran) and the Muslim brotherhood (Egypt) which will surely come to power if Assad is toppled. The rich and middle class and non-Muslims in Syria support Assad. Also, it is NOT in US and Israel's interest to remove Assad.

    July 8, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  3. I Hate Arabs

    Arabs are so disgusting and I wish they could be wiped out of the face of the world.. They are the terrorist, Tyrants, Dictators, Murderers and 100% wicked and evil doers... Western world is the eye opener for China, Japan and the rest of em... Without Westerners Morons like "Justice for all" and the rest of the arab world would have been sitting on Carmel back traveling 400 or 500 kilometers. Arabs are nobody and their so called MOHAMMED THE PROPHET was exactly the kinds of Osama, Saddam, Gadaffi, Saleh, Ahmedinejad, etc... I wish I could single handedly wiped out arabs and for your information I am african and not American or Westerner...

    July 9, 2011 at 5:56 am | Reply
    • Maher

      You are just a Nazi.
      Ethnic fanatic.
      Such thinking exists only in criminal minds.
      You want to crush entire peoples.
      I suggest you go to a psychiatrist.
      Although who broadcasts these ideas in your patient mind i suggested that you have to go together to the psychiatrist

      August 24, 2011 at 3:54 am | Reply
    • khaled

      you are racial i think you need Psychiatrist

      August 30, 2011 at 4:45 am | Reply
    • Saiid

      Thank you for showing your real face!! Look at mirror and tell me what you see! “evil”

      September 4, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Reply
    • M.Kahled

      You are disgusting!

      September 4, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Reply
    • Kursad

      u go and .... urself looser

      September 12, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Reply
  4. I Hate Arabs

    Arabs are so disgusting and I wish they could be wiped out of the face of the world.. They are the terrorist, Tyrants, Dictators, Murderers and 100% wicked and evil doers... Western world is the eye opener for China, Japan and the rest of em... Without Westerners Morons like "Justice for all" and the rest of the arab world would have been sitting on Carmel back traveling 400 or 500 kilometers. Arabs are nobody and their so called MOHAMMED THE PROPHET was exactly the kinds of Osama, Saddam, Gadaffi, Assad, Saleh, Ahmedinejad, etc... I wish I could single handedly wiped out arabs and for your information I am african and not American or Westerner...

    July 9, 2011 at 5:57 am | Reply
    • noah

      May god help you. you are so hateful and missguided.

      July 14, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Reply
    • khaled

      you are racial i think you need Psychiatrist

      August 30, 2011 at 4:46 am | Reply
    • srwafai

      easy man we are as human as you are , we are difrent , culture , relegion , maybe in color , but basicaly we have same instinct as any normal human being and can be offended like any other ,
      it realy hurts to find someone who cannot accept others as they are , we do accept western culture in our gulf countries , we do accept far eastern people and africans in ur countries and do respect their culture in their habbits , we are not parasite and our prophet mohamed passed awa 2000 years ago and we do respect him as we respect Ibrahim Jesus Moses , and Boda , easy man , just try to accept us the way we are , not the way you might whant us to be.
      forget about politics , I remmember that bachier from sudan was going to jail ew months ago and now he is a modern friend for the west.
      we are nice just try to come along with us.

      September 6, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  5. Hallab Mugerer Behi

    in fact Bashar Al assad is just like his father for both of them are war criminal for they killed thousands of civilian sryrians the first terrorist was Hafez Al assad for he killed 40 up to 50 thousand people in 02/02/1982 just because they opposed him simply image 50 thousands people killed because of opposition we in Syria we brought up in fear , fear of police men of of this criminale system fear of the the state this state and this policemen should protect us but in the contrary they killed them for the eyes of that dictatore ie Bashar Al assad in fact there's no conspiracy no criminals no armed forces no any thing that the system is trying with his leis to convince others of it but a peaciful opposition that tries to break the wall of fear that Al assad has for more than 41 years of time we hate Bashar Al Assad we hate Haffez Al Assad we hate all that corrupt system that govern us for a long period of time we want another president even if the next will be worse and of coure he will not be worse but we want freedom in criticizing the corruption the system to have independent newspapers , Tv stations not just like a puppy in the hands of the system we want to down the system to elect a new democratic president not to kill us we want to a better living conditions a better schooling for our kids not pribe of what so ever no corruption of any thing

    July 21, 2011 at 4:01 am | Reply
  6. manal

    i like President Bashar al-Assad’s it good man i hate Mr.obama it false and all people in syria he knowe what amerca want from syria but the people syria he win obama he loes

    August 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Reply
  7. shami

    على النظام الرحيل و التوقف عن القتل و سحب الجيش و الامن من الشوارع و التوقف عن تسليح الشبيحة و قتل المدنيين العزل بكل دم بارد

    August 15, 2011 at 11:08 am | Reply
  8. CNNInternationalAudience

    It is unbearable to watch Assad's interview (6/21...happening now!) on CNN International with the Arabic translator/interpreter CNN employs. This translator is so incompetent. Can't understand a single uttering what is said by Assad.

    CNN fire your Arabic translator. This is not the first time he mumbled through very critical interviews concerning Egypt, Libya and now Syria.

    Get a professional.

    August 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  9. ALI

    Bashaar Al Assad is A ruthless bloodhound.Save us from killing by the security forces.

    August 24, 2011 at 3:28 am | Reply
    • M.Kahled

      Save you of what!!! We want good people to save us from you and from American policy in the region

      September 4, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Reply
  10. Maher

    We want freedom and social justice. This army moved to silence and crush the opposition and now doing the worst types of crimes against the peaceful people they demanded only their legitimate rights.
    Take them right to life.
    Even children and women are not spared from oppression and torture.
    The snipers and some from Iran and Hezbollah by sniping even children and women.
    Detained children loot until death.
    And send their bodies torn to parents
    To make people scared
    They want to prevent people from pretending
    And the people he did not want this system
    And the people reject the existence of illegal power, Bashar Al-Assad
    We therefore now we torture to death
    Save the Syrian people

    August 24, 2011 at 3:39 am | Reply
    • Saiid

      fabricating Lies will not help you!! All know the fact... try to be realistic!! Get out of religious hatred

      September 4, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  11. khaled

    Assad will not falls in easy way because assad clan fight as a religius duty they will not care for the Sanctions . and iran support him with billions of dollars . he has 120000 of alawit soliders just under his brother maher . Except for the security forces which are alawite 95% . so he will not fall if there are no Military strikes . also the Military strikes will Encourage the other soliders to Defecting the army . IF THE WORLD DONT STAND WITH THE PROTESTERS THEY WILL BE KILLED FOR THE FUTUER . AND IRAN WILL BE STRONGER AND AMERICANS Existence WILL BE AT RISK.AND THE SYRIAN REGIME WILL FEEL STRONGER SO ISRAEL WILL BE ON IRANIAN LIST AND IT IS NOT SECRET THAT IRAN About to MAKE NUCLEAR BOMB . O AMERICA IT IS NOT ABOUT OIL IT IS ABOUT EXISTENCE .

    August 30, 2011 at 4:31 am | Reply
    • Saiid

      Get your fact right .... i assure you nothing will change and Assad will be in power.. Your way of changes the government will never work.. Not with French or American armies!! You have no solution.. all you have is hate to a Alwaite sect in Syria.. Shame on

      September 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Reply
    • M.Kahled

      Hate is not the answer.. The article is full of misleading statements….

      September 4, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Reply
  12. mohamedkamoun

    i send message to American people please hear the voice of truth the Arab world needs freedom and justice we need your support to get them but at the same time i have a question to the president obama why always you support Israel against the rights of Arabs in Palestine we need the peace and justice in the middle east , hand to hand to make them

    August 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Reply
  13. Nour

    The speech was really good.. I love Bashar Al Assad and I'm supporting him because he's the best president for Syria.. 70% of the Syrian people back in Syria are with him and love him.. We will always support him and be with him,, The army are protecting the people and making sure everyone is safe,, I love Syria.. So everyone who's not Syrian please mind your own business..

    August 31, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Reply
  14. Vince

    Long live Syria and its government!

    September 5, 2011 at 7:13 am | Reply
  15. bachar alaouf

    نبأ مفاده ٌأن انشقاقات حدثت داخل مطار المزه في دمشق وسط سماع إطلاق رصاص كثيف جدا من داخل المطار، مؤكدين:"هذه الأصوات ليست لبنادق وإنما أصوات أسلحة ثقيلة ورشاشات وهناك تحليق لطائرات هليكوبتر".الحقيقه ...عند وصول جاكوب كلينبيرغر أُفِرغَت بعض المعتقلات ووضعوهم في مطار المزه وتم إعدام مايفوق عن ثمانية عشرألف معتقل وقد حفرت لهم مقابر كبيره بعمق أكثر ثلاثون مترأ..لم يكن هناك إنشقاقات...أسلحة ثقيلة ورشاشات وتحليق لطائرات ...كل هاذا للتمويه فقط

    September 5, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Reply
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