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The response to the speech, however, sparked widespread demonstrations in 19 Syrian cities, including in Damascus, with crowds chanting “liar.” Of course, it’s certainly understandable that Syrians remain skeptical of Assad’s motives.
Since the Syrian uprising began in March, an estimated 1,600 civilians have been killed and 10,000 arrested. Moreover, many of those killed came at the hands of Syrian security forces opening fire on funeral processions being held for slain anti-government protesters.
Moreover, Assad has shown no inclination to ease up on the bloodbath. Only yesterday, Syrian tanks and helicopters assaulted the village of Rameh, killing seven people and wounding scores. The result has been a mass exodus of Syrians fleeing the country. It is estimated that over 12,000 Syrians have fled to Turkey, apparently unaware of the reforms being enacted on their behalf by Assad.
However, Assad still commands loyalty among his mainly Alawite forces led by his brother Maher, including the Republican Guard and the 4th Armored Division. Each of these units contains nearly 10,000 highly trained soldiers equipped with large numbers of heavily armored tanks. In comparison, the rest of Syria’s 200,000 troops are mostly poorly trained and poorly equipped conscripts.
Still, while it’s easy to be hard on Kucinich for his romantic view of Assad and his regime, he certainly hasn’t been alone in that stance. The Obama administration, despite its recent stance, has long been an advocate for Assad’s role as a strategic ally in the Mideast region.
In fact, it was only in March that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had also referred to Assad as a “reformer,” even as his regime was already in the midst of its brutal crackdown on Syrian demonstrators. As such, she insisted the United States, unlike in Libya, would not intervene militarily to stop the Syrian regime’s murderous repression of its own people.
To his credit, at least, Kucinich is nothing if not consistent in his support for some unsavory figures, including Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. To that end, he recently issued his own 10-point plan calling for the saving of the Gaddafi regime with calls for an immediate ceasefire followed by political reforms to be ushered in by the Libyan despot.
In the end, however, despite Kucinich’s support, the future path of Bashar Assad and his regime remain in doubt. For Kucinich, his path may be much clearer. As his Ohio congressional seat is being redistricted out of existence, there has been speculation that he is exploring options to run in some out-of-state ultra-liberal congressional district.
However, if that proves to not be a viable option, he can always find work in the Syrian government. After all, Bashar Assad appears to be in the market for an experienced political reformer.
Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog, www.politicallyunbalanced.com.
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