Sunday, January 22, 2012

Syrian President Assad's Speech Marks Beginning of New Era

Assad’s speech marks beginning of new era

Hossein Sabah-Zanganeh
Tehran Times
21 January 2012 10:55

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent speech at Damascus University is viewed by political analysts as a sign of change in the security situation in Syria.

There are some indications that such a change is occurring. First of all, despite the sensitivity of the situation, the Syrian government conditionally agreed to allow an Arab League mission to enter the country to observe the implementation of the peace agreement. Secondly, the mission’s report was not as negative as some Western governments expected and it raised confidence in the Syrian government. The third point was Russia’s decision to send an aircraft carrier and four other warships to the Mediterranean Sea as naval support for Damascus, which boosted Assad’s confidence in dealing with the Western plots.

All this encouraged Assad to articulate his stances on the situation in a more confident manner. He pointed to the role of certain Arab countries in fomenting the crisis and asked these states to stop helping the West’s efforts to intervene in Syria.

Commenting on the reform process, Assad stated that the implementation of the reform plans will be more difficult due to the current problems.

However, it is clear that any delay in starting the process will give rise to negative responses, especially in the West, which is looking for a pretext to increase the pressure on Damascus.

Turning to the Arab League and its decisions on Syria, Assad took issue with the organization, saying that it “is neither a league nor is it Arab.”

The fact that the Arab League supports oppressive Arab governments and undermines popular systems, like the one in Syria, proves Assad’s point. And the Syria issue illustrates the deep divisions between Arab countries.

Turkey’s influence over the Arab League’s decisions on Syria provides more evidence that it has lost its Arab identity. Assad heavily criticized this turn of events in his speech.

Moreover, the organization’s main agenda on the Syria crisis is being implemented by Qatar and Saudi Arabia and was actually devised by Washington, which shows that its decision-making process is no longer independent.

The Syria crisis has reached a critical juncture in which the possibility of foreign intervention has become greater. Assad’s recent speech was an attempt to open the door for more discussion. The address marks the beginning of a new era, in which the Syrian government will make better decisions to deal with the ten-month crisis.

Hossein Sabah-Zanganeh is the Iranian Judiciary chief’s top advisor on international affairs and formerly served as Iran’s envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

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