Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Assad's Two-Faced Statements

Bashar al Assad is no different than your typical dictator or despot. When confronted with overwhelming evidence that Syria is in the wrong, he's lashing out at the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for provocations.
Both the U.S. and France strongly criticized Syria after pro-government mobs attacked the American and French embassies in Damascus on Monday, smashing windows and spray-painting obscenities and graffiti on the walls.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry condemned Clinton's statement as "a provocative reaction."

"Syria stresses that the legitimacy of its political leadership is based neither on the United States nor on others, it is exclusively from the will of the Syrian people," the statement said.

President Bashar Assad is facing a four-month-old uprising that has posed the gravest challenge to his family's 40-year dynasty in Syria, one of the most tightly controlled countries in the Middle East.

He has tried to crush the unrest using a mixture of deadly force and promises of reform, but the revolt has only grown more defiant. Enraged by a government crackdown that activists say has killed some 1,600 people, the protest movement is now calling for nothing less than the downfall of the regime.

Syria's deadly government crackdown has led to international condemnation and sanctions.
The US didn't provoke hundreds of thousands of Syrians to take to the streets to protest Assad's brutal regime. Assad's brutality brought that about on its own. Failed economic policies brought about the massive protests. The US had nothing to do with any of that.

What Assad did do was condone the rioters aimed at the US and French embassies where rioters vandalized and attempted to overrun the security posts and cause unspecified damage to the US ambassador's home. Those riots would not have occurred unless Assad bused them in and told security to be elsewhere when it happened.

This is far from the first time that Syrian security has looked the other way when rioters have attacked embassies. During the cartoon jihad, Danish and Norwegian embassies were torched by crowds in Damascus protesting the free speech rights to post cartoons depicting Mohammad. Those were well-planned riots with a death toll, but they were also acts of war against the countries whose embassies were damaged or destroyed.

Just as those were acts of war so too were the attacks against the embassies of the United States and France yesterday. International law provides protections for embassies and diplomatic property as though they were land of the foreign country. An attack on the US embassy is the same as an attack on the United States.

Now, Assad may claim that his regime didn't condone the rioting, but in a country where his regime is brutally cracking down against protests on a daily basis, that they've managed to overlook rioters hell-bent on attacking foreign embassies seems to be a stretch. He might have just enough plausible deniability to avoid direct and immediate consequences, but the war of words has been ratcheted up quite a bit since US Ambassador Ford went to Hama to witness the protests first-hand.

Since then, Assad has been waging an ever louder war of words with the US and sought to intimidate protesters in the US in addition to the actions within Syria. Some might argue that the Syrian ambassador to the US was put in that position by his masters in Damascus, but if he's as truly Westernized as claimed or believed, then he would have known that those actions would have resulted in serious repercussions. Syria Ambassador to the US Imad Moustapha, if those claims are to be believed, would appear to be the kind of individual that the US should be trying to turn against his masters in Damascus, just as other ministers and high ranking officials have fled and turned against the Libyian regime of Mumar Khadafi.

Let's not forget that Syria has been trying to influence the outcome in Lebanon for years, has been caught receiving arms shipments from Iran (and one such shipment that was intercepted and being stored in Cyprus pending a disposition exploded with deadly consequences earlier this week). They've been arming and sheltering terrorist groups throughout the region, including Hamas and Hizbullah.

This is not a regime interested in anything other than remaining in power and using whatever means at its disposal to do so. Assad's following the Hama rules, and it's the only playbook that his regime knows.

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