The man Hillary Clinton described as a “reformer” (which she later tried to walk back), and on whom the Obama administration has pinned its hopes for peace in the Middle East, despite his having helped funnel insurgents into Iraq to kill American soldiers and Iraqi civilians, his arming of Hezbollah, and his service as Iran’s gateway to the Mediterranean.
As reported by AP, the Reformer-in-Chief reacts to protests in Syria the way Amadinejad reacted to protests in Iran:
Syrian President Bashar Assad blamed “conspirators” Wednesday for an extraordinary wave of dissent against his authoritarian rule, but he failed to lift the country’s despised emergency law or offer any concessions in his first speech since the protests began nearly two weeks ago.
Assad said Syria is facing “a major conspiracy” that aims to weaken this country of 23 million. The Assad family has ruled Syria for nearly 40 years, using the feared security services to monitor and control even the smallest rumblings of opposition. Draconian laws have all but eradicated civil liberties and political freedoms.
“We don’t seek battles,” Assad, 45, said in an unusually short, televised speech before legislators who cheered for him and shouted support from their seats. “But if a battle is imposed on us today, we welcome it.”
He made only a passing reference to the protesters’ calls for change, saying “we are for reform” and promising that certain measures were being studied. He did not elaborate.
Within minutes of his speech, social networking sites exploded with activists calling on Syrians to take to the streets.
When protesters took to the streets in Iran in June 2009, they were met with silence from the Obama administration, and then thrown overboard in pursuit of a grand bargain of encouraging cooperation from the Iranians on nuclear issues. It appears that the same thing is taking place in Syria.