Syrian President Bashar al-Assad delivered a defiant televised address on Tuesday saying that he will not step down and will not institute new democratic reforms, insisting that unrest in his country is the work of a foreign conspiracy. According to Al-Jazeera's translations, Assad said that there are no real revolutionaries in his country, just terrorists carrying out a plan that was devised "tens of years ago" to divide Arab countries. Assad also claimed that he still had the support of Syrians and he will only leave office when it is "by the will of the people."
During the rare 90 minute address, his first speech to the nation in more than six months, Assad also criticized other Arab League governments that suspended Syria from the League and sent a team of monitors to attempt to oversee a peace plan. Assad says that Arab monarchies telling Syria how to institute democracy is "like a doctor who smokes and recommends to his patient to give up smoking while he, the doctor, has a cigarette in his mouth."
Assad continued to insist that demonstrations taking place in Syria are merely the work of "terrorists" and "thieves" and that he will continue to hit them with "an iron fist." However, he claims that "there are no orders for anyone to open fire on any citizen," despite estimates by the U.N. and opposition leaders that well over 5,000 Syrians have been killed by the military since the unrest began last March.
Assad remains defiant in the face of increasing criticism from other nations. Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Syria's neighbor Turkey, said yesterday that Syria is "heading towards a religious, sectarian, racial war" that needs to be prevented. Assad response seems to show that he intends to fight that war rather than cede power and that more pressure, and possibly intervention from other countries, may be the only way to stop it.
To give you some idea of what the economic situation is like in Syria, earlier today a Twitter user posted this photo of a gas station that just received a rare delivery of fuel.