Bashar al-Assad gave a rare speech on state-run TV today, in which he lashed out at the Arab League and vowed to deal harshly with violent unrest. The Syrian president asked what right the Arab League, which includes absolute monarchies, had to preach about democracy and reform. "Their situation 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," he said, according to al-Jazeera.
He insisted that the military had no orders to open fire on protesters or other civilians, and said he had personally recommended the League's observer mission. But he vowed to combat the "terrorists" opposing him, whom he said were part of a foreign conspiracy. "We will not be lenient with those who work with outsiders," he said, according to the BBC. "Our priority now is to regain security … and this can only be achieved by hitting the terrorists with an iron fist." (Read more Bashar al-Assad stories.)