A week ago, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad proclaimed the imminent cancellation of the much-hated emergency law. As one Facebook dissident wrote, “Syrians want to cancel the law of Assad because it is causing the emergency.”
This week, in his first public appearance since the uprisings erupted, Assad delivered a speech before the Syrian parliament — to allege that the demonstrations are nothing but a foreign conspiracy to destabilize Syria.
This after two weeks during which some 200 hundred Syrians have been gunned down in cold blood, several hundred have been injured, and up to 5,000 activists for freedom and human rights have been detained under abhorrent prison conditions.
Though the speech centered on reforms, it dodged them more than any time in the past. There were no specifics. There was no timeline. And there was no clear commitment to any implementations. Assad went so far as to claim that “99.9% of the people complain about their salaries or jobs, that’s all.”
So far, every Syrian who died for his freedom has died in vain.
On display this week was the same fatuously arrogant Assad the world is familiar with — deflecting blame and eluding responsibility for the massacres he committed against his people, the same way he evasively denied killing American soldiers in Iraq.
In an apparent shock, thousands of Syrians filled the streets of Damascus this week in support of Assad. Amongst them were the Rent-A-Crowd, the Scare-A-Crowd, and the Fool-A-Crowd. The last group, which constituted the absolute majority of demonstrators, embodied real opposition to Assad. They hit the streets to celebrate what they thought was their success in forcing through the reform package Assad announced under pressure a few days before. This week, they realize their triumphalism put faith in a lie.
If we have to find one central cause to Assad’s re-emergence as Iran’s agent and promoter of terror and violence in the Middle East, we will find it during an appearance, on March 21, of Secretary Clinton on Face the Nation. There, she threw Assad a lifeline by ruling out military intervention. “Each of these situations is unique,” she declared. Syrians never asked for military intervention. But ruling it out was all it took for the world to realize Assad has just been given a new lease on terror.
After Clinton’s announcement, the Iranian mullahs — along with Hamas and Hezbollah — sighed with relief. Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan publicly supported Assad, as did King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. And the U.S. pulled its fleet from Bahrain. Intentional or not, the U.S. missed yet another golden opportunity to re-energize its allies and change the course of history. Assad will now take his vengeance on the Syrian and Lebanese people — and foment new conflict to harm Israelis. As long as the Assad regime lives, the region is in turmoil.
Burying conflicts and horse trading with weak countries make America weak. If the U.S. is willing to save an unpopular Assad when his people are demanding an end to his regime of terror, its own measure of power suffers. Freedom does not come in different colors or sizes. The moment politicians differentiate one people’s freedom from another, or trade freedoms as if they were a Cold War commodity, we become hostage to our own short-sightedness.
This Friday is a major test for the Syrian opposition. If it erupts again in Syria, all bets are off. Syrians will be watching the world community diligently. Will it fail to support the Syrian people and fail to condemn Assad when he begins massacring our people again?