Watching the various talk shows on satellite TV about the Syrian unrests, I’ve noticed a common talking point emerging from the pro-regime apologists. It basically goes along these lines: “President Assad is at heart a reformer, but he’s surrounded by people from the old guard who don’t want to grant freedom to the Syrian people. But now, President Assad decided to override their wishes and enact real reforms. Just wait and see”.
In case they haven’t noticed, President Bashar (not withstanding the fact that they still call him the “new” president) has been in office for more than 10 years. If he really wanted reform and freedom for his people, he would have long sidelined this ‘old guard’.
But Mr. Assad, like with most of his policies, wants to have things both ways. He wants to be both the hardliner and the reformer, the calm interlocutor and the thundering refusenik, the “western educated doctor” and the roaring defender of Arab dignity. He wants to be everything to everyone so that he can keep his cards open.
Now he’s trying this old trick with his own people. Throwing his “old guard” advisors under the bus is yet another inelegant instance of him abandoning responsibility for something we all know belongs to him…