On Saturday, in his first public speech in months, the Syrian dictator rejected any political compromise with the opposition. The world is not amused:
The West, including the U.S. and Britain, denounced Assad’s speech, which came amid stepped-up international efforts for a peaceful settlement to the Syrian conflict. On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also criticized the Syrian leader’s initiative. He accused Assad of "state terrorism" and called on him to relinquish power.
Dan Murphy argues the speech is proof that both the regime and the rebels now view the conflict as a "zero sum struggle":
To be sure, anyone going into a negotiation would want to do so from a position of strength. It's possible that Assad is striking a maximalist, defiant tone in public while entertaining compromises behind the scenes. But there were no indications of even a moderation of tone towards his opponents, routinely described as "terrorists" or agents of foreign powers, which would usually be taken as a signal that some sort of overture was being made.
And the deeply troubling news about chemical weapons does not reassure either. I have few doubts that Assad would use them. The crime family running Syria lost any semblance of humanity decades ago. Richard Spencer hears an echo of Gaddafi in Assad's speech:
Even the slogans were the same as the slain Libyan dictator: "God, Syria, Bashar, enough". Reminiscent too was the rambling delivery, leaping incoherently back and forth between vague peace proposals and unremitting imprecations against the opposition: "al-Qaeda", "armed criminals", "foreign terrorists" were also prominent in Col Muammar Gaddafi's vocabulary.
Al-Jazeera rounds up reactions from the Syrian opposition and Western statesmen.