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Assad: 'There Is a War'

12:23 PM, Apr 18, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
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Yesterday Syrian president Bashar al-Assad commemorated Syria’s independence day with a television interview where he described the Syrian civil war as a colonial plot. Western powers, said Assad, “never accepted the idea of other nations having their independence. They want those nations to submit to them.”

Bashar al-Assad

Assad is surely aware that 67 years after Damascus won its independence from France, the Western powers, and the United States above all, are wary of direct involvement in a Middle East conflict that may drag on for many years to come. Some may still hold out hope for a diplomatic or political solution, but yesterday Assad dispelled those dreams of a bloodless exit strategy. “The truth is there is a war,” said Assad, “And I repeat: no to surrender, no to submission.”

One purpose of Assad’s speech then was to inspire his loyalists by reframing the conflict in terms that are most favorable to those that are fighting and dying on his behalf. This is not a sectarian conflict, he said. Indeed sectarianism, he contended “is less pronounced in Syria now than at the beginning of this conflict.” Rather, it is the continuation of a long war of liberation fought against the colonial occupiers and their local stooges. Accordingly, the other purpose of Assad’s speech was to threaten those arrayed against him—if you bring war to me, this is the kind of war I shall bring to you.

He singled out neighboring Jordan for a specific threat: "We would wish that our Jordanian neighbors realize that... the fire will not stop at our borders; all the world knows Jordan is just as exposed [to the crisis] as Syria." Likely alluding to the various terrorist attacks that the Syrian regime engineered against Iraq in the summer of 2009, Assad warned the Jordanians, “I hope they learn the lessons that the Iraqi authorities learned.”

Jordan has earned Assad’s ire by reportedly serving as a training base for rebel fighters. It appears that Jordan’s King Abdullah, after long deliberating the pluses and minuses, has finally come down in favor of ousting Assad. If the Hashemite kingdom is worried that a victory over Assad led by Islamists might inspire Jordan’s own Islamists, a graver concern is that Assad will make good on his threats and start targeting Jordan. Therefore, the sooner he’s gone the better. The Pentagon is sending 200 U.S. troops to Jordan in order to soothe Amman’s anxieties and promises that as many as 20,000 troops could be available to protect Jordan’s borders against spillover, or secure Syria’s chemical weapons.

However, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said yesterday he’s not sure the United States could secure Assad’s stockpile of unconventional weapons. "They’ve been moving [the stockpile] and the number of sites is quite numerous,” said Dempsey. Previously, the White House has warned the Syrian regime against moving its unconventional arsenal, but it seems that this time the administration is giving Assad a pass.

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