Protests Erupt in Syria After Assad Speech
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad delivered a speech on Monday to a student group at Damascus University. This was the third speech Assad delivered since the beginning of protests against his regime in March, and was largely the same as the previous two he delivered.
According to Assad, the current protests are rooted in conspiracies - in Syria, and from outside influences - concocted to smear his administration. The vast majority of protesters are apparently outlaws, or heretical intellectuals that he will not deal with in the coming months. Assad has promised to create committees to explore the possibility of changes in Syrian government, but there are no definite plans of how or when this will happen.
According to Al-Jazeera English, Assad considers the situation "historic", and is promising his "total commitment" to sweeping reforms. Additionally, he addressed the refugees in Turkey, particularly those from Jisr al-Shughour, and requested that they return, promising that Syria is now safe for them. This request was not taken seriously, as one woman interviewed by Al-Jazeera was of the opinion that Assad wanted them back so he could finish them off.
Protesters took to the streets after Assad's speech, chanting "No dialogue with murderers." Their hopes that the president would address their concerns, and remove the military and tanks from the streets weren't addressed. Instead of calming the masses, Assad appears to have only added fuel to their fire, not unlike ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had done before stepping down. Whether or not Assad will end up like Mubarak remains to be seen, but given the current course of events in Syria, it is not out of the question.
In spite of the embattled president's beliefs that the current protests are at least in part the result of foreign conspiracies, it is unlikely that there will be military interventions from the outside, as in Libya. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told the Financial Times (free sign-up required to read previous link) that he intends to use his veto power in the UN to prevent an intervention like the one in Libya when it comes to Syria. Medvedev wouldn't even support a resolution condemning Assad's regime, without any attached sanctions or military action.
If Medvedev remains true to his words, Syrians can expect to fight this battle on their own. Assad may take this as good news for his regime remaining in power, but he should remember that Mubarak was removed without military assistance from the UN.