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Mired opposition
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad answers journalists after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris in this December 9, 2010 file photo. (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Files)
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad answers journalists after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris in this December 9, 2010 file photo. (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Files)
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The landscape in Syria’s many villages and towns has been steadily eroding into concrete rubble, and anyone who has spent time there after the bloody uprising has seen more than enough dead bodies to last a lifetime.

The photos and videos that detail the horrific destruction, on a depressing daily basis, can only recall December 2011, when Syrian President Bashar Assad told an American television network that “we don’t kill our people ... No government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person.”

Assad has now vowed that he will “live and die in Syria,” and has no plans to do anything other than carry out his uncompromising repression of a popular uprising that erupted as a demand for internal political reform, and not the toppling of his regime.

As usual, Assad put forward his threat that any foreign intervention in the Syria conflict would unleash “unpredictable consequences.”

More than 600 days into the conflict, Assad’s interview with a Russian television station signals only that his “security solution,” a euphemism for violent crackdown, remains the only game in town.

Assad’s latest statement indicates that the violence will continue, amid the abject failure of diplomatic and political efforts. The only change is the intensity of the firepower being unleashed by the regime and the reactions by rebels, who are managing to respond with increasingly effective, and deadly methods.

Naturally, the Syrian regime is taking advantage of the political contradictions in the region, where different states have different, competing interests when it comes to intervening in Syria, and how to oversee this intervention. It knows that for now, regime allies such as Russia and Iran will continue to back Damascus, to let Assad continue trying to settle the conflict militarily. He has also been wagering on the lack of leeway for movement by the U.S. over the past few months, due to the presidential election campaign.

The latest movement by Washington has been in the direction of encouraging the Syrian opposition to get its house in order, and Assad has only been helped by the performance of the dysfunctional Syrian National Council, which has been busy this week in Doha, Qatar.

However, the SNC has been sending out the worst possible signals, as it gets dragged, kicking and screaming, into the process of expanding its representative nature. It managed to elect a new leadership body that completely shut out women, who, as in many places in the world, happen to make up half the population.

The SNC has also dumped some of its more familiar, media-friendly figures for an even more shadowy, “one-color” leadership group, which does nothing to generate support with people inside Syria.

Assad can get away with giving such interviews, in which he offers nothing new, because of the absolute paralysis of the other sides concerned with the unfolding tragedy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 09, 2012, on page 7.
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