While many inside and outside Syria felt frustrated by the Syrian President’s speech at Damascus University, including the President’s supporters, many in the Syrian opposition are optimistic. When I say that there was frustration stemming from the President’s speech, the evidence is clear; for here is the President himself issuing a second amnesty, the day after his speech which did not indicate such a step.
In order for us not to be accused by the regime’s “analysts” who seem to be deployed everywhere, the President said in his speech the day before yesterday, on the issue of amnesty: “I will ask the Ministry of Justice to make a study of the margin that we can use in order to make the amnesty more comprehensive”. If this second amnesty was supposedly subject to a study, then why was it issued the day after the speech, at an incredible speed by the regime’s standards, while studies have delayed the rest of al-Assad’s promises? The only answer is that the regime realized that the President’s speech was not effective. The Syrians know more than others that the regime is functioning according to Hafez al-Assad’s famous advice, who said: “Concede as much as necessary, and resolve as much as possible”, but it is clear that the regime has not yielded as much as necessary, nor has it resolved as much as possible!
As for why the opposition is optimistic, this is because many of them believe that al-Assad delayed in delivering a speech for two months not for the reasons that some internally and externally are grappling with, such as the argument that the decision was not in his hands, but they believe that the regime was exercising its famous style of political dealing with the international community, namely extortion. According to the opposition, the regime was waiting for offers to come from abroad, internationally and regionally, to do this in return for that, a game the regime has excelled at length in the region. For example, one of its most famous games was the story of the Saudi-Syrian initiative in Lebanon, which exposed the regime’s foreign policy; political extortion.
The regime thought that time was on its side, either to eliminate the popular uprising or to make concessions in accordance with the considerable political prices supposedly being offered to it from abroad. Therefore the regime waited for two months, but the offers did not come. The crisis began to worsen with rising casualties, refugees and detainees, growing international pressure, frequent demonstrations in Damascus and Aleppo, and deteriorating economic conditions. All of this prompted the regime to mobilize, and the result came in the form of the President’s third speech. The opposition is optimistic because al-Assad’s speech was met with international rejection and internal frustration, despite the fact that demonstrations in support of the regime immediately countered the opposition demonstrations, and even resulted in the deaths of some of those protesting against the regime. Yet this matter will only increase pressure on the regime, and lessen its credibility further.
It is also interesting to consider what the Russian President said; having reiterated that external intervention would not resolve the conflict in Syria. Yet more importantly, he went on to say: “there is no doubt that it is necessary to apply pressure on the leadership of any country where mass disorder and particularly bloodshed is occurring”. This means that Russia has put his hand in his pocket in search of the key to the door of the Security Council!
This is the story and it seems that those in the Syrian opposition have read it well, and therefore are optimistic.