SYRIAN PRESIDENT Bashar al-Assaddelivered a speech Sunday that had the virtue, at least, of offering clarity. No, he insisted, he would not step down. He would not negotiate with the rebels who control much of the countryside and parts of major cities. He would not consider the compromise “transition” proposal being pedaled by a U.N. envoy with the backing of his ally Russia, as well as the United States. Instead, he said, he would fight to the end against “enemies of God and puppets of the West.”
The State Department offered a succinct judgment on Mr. Assad’s hour-long speech, his first in six months: “His initiative is detached from reality, undermines the efforts of [U.N.] Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, and would only allow the regime to further perpetuate its bloody oppression of the Syrian people.” After 22 months of protests and civil war in which his regime has steadily lost ground, Mr. Assad is offering the same hollow political formulas and slogans about terrorists that he has clung to all along.
The tragedy is that there is scant sign that Mr. Assad will be compelled to face reality any time soon. Despite their gains, Syria’s rebels continue to lack the heavy weapons necessary to break the regime’s hold over Damascus or to stop the artillery, missiles and planes Mr. Assad is using to pummel cities. With the United States and other Western governments refusing to help, recent reports have said that rebel arms supplies are drying up.