Bashar al-Assad gave a major speech at parliament today blaming “conspirators” for the country’s wave of anti-government protests, as crowds outside sang his praises. “I belong to the Syrian people, and whoever belongs to the Syrian people will always keep his head high,” the Syrian president said in a televised address, accusing “our enemies” of trying to spread sectarianism in the country. Outside, supporters chanted, “God, Syria, and Bashar only!”
The address is “without a doubt the most important speech of [Assad’s] career,” says one al-Jazeera correspondent. “People want to see an end to corruption. But on the street, people are also saying 'We want to see reforms, but we want to see Bashar al-Assad stay in power.’” Yesterday thousands flooded the streets of Damascus in support of Assad. The Syrian president was expected to discuss a series of reforms in today’s speech, but failed to do so.