Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will address recent events in the nation and the government’s reforms in an interview today with Syrian television as security forces extend a violent crackdown on protesters.
Assad will discuss the “implications of U.S. and Western pressures on Syria politically and economically,” the Damascus-based Syrian Arab News Agency reported, without saying where it got the information. The interview will address “Syria’s future vision,” the news service said.
U.S. President Barack Obama, in a coordinated move with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, issued a statement on Aug. 18 saying Assad should step down and allow Syrians to chart their own political future. The European Union reached an agreement to broaden sanctions against the regime, including preparing for an embargo on the import of Syrian crude oil into the bloc, according to an e-mailed statement on Aug. 19.
Faced with the most serious threat to his family’s 40-year rule, Assad has deployed tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and helicopters to crush the uprising that began in mid-March after revolts ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and sparked a conflict in Libya. Assad, who succeeded his father as president after his death in 2000, has blamed the protests on foreign-inspired plots.
“Assad has lost credibility with the U.S., the Arab states and the Europeans,” said Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “His commitment to reform is all talk.”
Since Assad told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Aug. 18 that security operations had stopped, the government has maintained its crackdown. Thirteen people died yesterday in clashes, with most of the deaths in the city of Homs, Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Damascus-based Arab Organization for Human Rights, said in a phone interview from Damascus, the capital.
Government forces fired on protesters yesterday in the Homs governorate and Daraa, according to Merhi. At least 40 people were killed on Aug. 19 in Damascus, Homs and Daraa, the area where the revolt against Syria’s president began, according to the website of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.
Armed groups killed 12 members of the security forces on Aug. 19 in Damascus, Homs and Idlib, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported. Security forces in the al-Ramel al-Janoubi neighborhood in the coastal city of Latakia seized machine guns, hand grenades and explosives, the news service reported today.
More than 2,400 people have been killed since the protests started, according to Merhi and Qurabi. More than 500 members of the security forces have died since the unrest began, the government has said.
Obama’s declaration was his first explicit call for Assad to give up power since the uprising started. He also signed an executive order freezing any Syrian government assets in the U.S. and banning the import to the U.S. of petroleum products of Syrian origin. The order prohibits people in the U.S. from doing business with Syria.
The European Union aims to put “an end to the brutal repression” and assist the Syrian people to achieve their “legitimate aspirations” by broadening sanctions against the regime, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in the statement on Aug. 19.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Syria earlier this month.
A UN team will go to Syria this weekend on a four-day mission to assess the humanitarian situation, emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos told reporters. She said the government has pledged “full access” for the team.