In his first speech in two months, embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday called for a "national dialogue" on political reform, and blamed anti-government violence on "saboteurs." Protesters took to the streets, shouting, "Liar!" On Tuesday, Assad followed up by giving amnesty to dissidents — the second such announcement in just three weeks — and pro-government demonstrators rallied in support. Will these gestures buy Assad more time to defuse the uprising?
Assad is only digging himself a deeper hole: Assad's regime promised a "groundbreaking" speech, says Martin Chulov at Britain's Guardian, and this is the best he could do? The protesters have withstood a deadly crackdown by Assad's forces, so the Syrian leader is dreaming if he thinks they'll simmer down with yet another vague promise of reform. And calling the demonstrators "saboteurs" who are preventing him from moving toward democracy has only infuriated them further.
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This might buy the regime a little breathing room: The protesters certainly aren't going to pack up and go home, says Nicholas Blanford at The Christian Science Monitor, but they're not the ones Assad was talking to. He was trying to reach "the silent mass of Syrians who support the call for reforms and greater freedoms, but have chosen not to take to the streets out of fear that the collapse of the Assad regime could plunge the country into sectarian bloodshed." If they were listening, Assad might have convinced them to give him a little time to work things out.
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This delusional nonsense proves Assad is desperate: Assad's anxiety is showing, says Yoni Ben-Menahem, Israel Radio director and chief editor, as quoted by The Jerusalem Post. "He's trying to contain the situation, but it's helpless." Nobody in Syria believes a word he says anymore. After slaughtering so many of his own citizens, his only option at this point is to "fight to the end." We may be in for a Gadhafi-like standoff.
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