Secretary of State Clinton is warning Syrian dictator Bashar Assad that he “is not indispensable and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power,” a marketed escalation in rhetoric following attacks on the U.S. and French embassies that were undoubtedly orchestrated by the Syrian regime. The statement is just short of a direct call for Assad’s resignation, though that is likely to come soon.
About 300 pro-Assad “protesters” attacked the U.S. embassy, tearing down plaques, spray-painting anti-American slogans, and breaking windows and security cameras. The French embassy was also assaulted, and live ammunition was used to protect the facility. The State Department says the state-controlled television inspired the attacks, and a resident said perpetrators were members of the regime’s Alawite Shabbiha militia, four buses of which were brought in from Tartous. The attack was retaliation for a bold visit to Hama by the American and French ambassadors on Thursday to express solidarity with the hordes of protesters demanding regime change. They were greeted by cheering residents, who put flowers and olive branches on their vehicles.
The images of appreciation for the U.S. and France made the regime sweat, as they should. The Assad regime has long dissuaded the West from supporting its opposition by playing on fears that anti-Western Islamists are bound to come to power in its absence. One example is the riots that happened in Syria following the publication of the Danish cartoons mocking Mohammed. A cable released by WikiLeaks shows that the regime manufactured the radical Islamic protests in its country to send the message: “We are the only thing standing between you and the Islamist hordes,” in the words of a source quoted in the file.
This campaign has gone into overdrive since the revolution began, as I’ve written about here in PJM. Since then, the regime’s television has broadcasted “confessions” of jihadists who claimed responsibility for the violence in the country, stating their goal as the creation of an Islamic state. Predictably, the so-called terrorists said they received their weapons from supporters in Lebanon, supporting the regime’s propaganda that Lebanese opponents of Assad like Saad Hariri are arming radical Islamic terrorists. Clinton’s strong statement shows that the Obama administration is not buying into the regime’s propaganda that no better alternative to it exists.