Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011 file photo, a part of the Maroun Petrochemical plant is seen, at the Imam Khomeini port, southwestern Iran. Technicians battling a complex computer virus took the ultimate firewall measures shutting off all Internet links to Iran's oil ministry and the terminal that carries nearly all the country's crude exports. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
Syrian leader likens bloody crackdown to surgery
First Published Jun 03 2012 12:28 pm • Last Updated Jun 03 2012 12:46 pm

Beirut » Syrian President Bashar Assad defended his government’s crackdown on opponents Sunday, saying a doctor performing messy emergency surgery does not have blood on his hands if he is trying to save a patient.

In his first speech since January, Assad appeared unmoved by scathing international criticism of his ferocious response to the 15-month-old revolt against his rule, which has killed up to 13,000 people, according to activist groups. He also denied responsibility for last week’s Houla massacre of more than 100 people, saying not even "monsters" would carry out such an ugly crime.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

He said terrorists have pushed his country into war.

"When a surgeon in an operating room ... cuts and cleans and amputates, and the wound bleeds, do we say to him your hands are stained with blood?" Assad said in a televised speech to parliament. "Or do we thank him for saving the patient?"

Assad insisted the revolt was the work of foreign-backed extremists — not reformers seeking change.

Although the country has faced widespread international condemnation since Syrian troops unleashed a relentless crackdown on protesters last year, a massacre last week in the central region of Houla has brought fresh urgency to solving the crisis.

The opposition and the government have exchanged accusations over the Houla killings, each blaming the other for the house-to-house killings of more than 100 people, many of them small children. U.N. investigators have said there are strong suspicions that pro-regime gunmen are responsible for at least some of the killings.

Assad denied his forces had anything to do with Houla.

"Not even monsters would carry out (the crimes) that we have seen, especially the Houla massacre. ... There are no Arabic or even human words to describe it," he said in his first public comments about the mass killing.

Assad did acknowledge the toll the crisis has taken on the country, suggesting all the blood that has been spilled is necessary to root out the forces working to drive him from power.


story continues below
story continues below

"Today we are defending a cause and a country," he said. "We do not do this because we like blood. A battle has been forced on us, and the result is this bloodshed that we are seeing."

Members of the Syrian opposition brushed off his comments as meaningless.

"It is a desperate and silly speech that does not merit a response," said Adib Shishakly, a Saudi-based member of Syria’s main opposition group, the Syrian National Council. "He didn’t offer anything to the Syrian people during the 70 minutes he spoke."

Shishakly, the grandson of a former president of Syria, described Assad’s statements on the Houla massacre as "lies to justify the killings because of the immense international pressure on his regime."

The U.S. has taken advantage of the global outrage over Houla to reach out to Syria’s most important ally and protector, Russia, to join a coordinated effort to resolve the deadly conflict. Russia has provided a layer of protection for Damascus, refusing to support any move that could lead to foreign intervention in Syria.

A Russian Foreign Ministry statement issued Sunday said Russia was awaiting the results of the investigation into the massacre at Houla and was "disturbed that some countries went ahead and cast blame."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday pressed Russia to join international efforts for a political transition in Syria that would see Assad driven from power, and suggested greater flexibility could come from a previous recalcitrant Moscow.

America’s top diplomat told reporters in Sweden that she made clear in a telephone conversation this weekend with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Moscow must do its part to help Syria turn the page after four decades under the Assad family control.

"My message to the foreign minister was very simple and straightforward," Clinton said. "We all have to intensify our efforts to achieve a political transition and Russia has to be at the table helping that to occur."

Although Assad’s words reflected many of the same general points of his previous speeches — blaming terrorists and extremists, vowing to protect national security — his comments on Houla were widely anticipated.

"If we don’t feel the pain that squeezes our hearts, as I felt it, for the cruel scenes — especially the children — then we are not human beings," Assad said.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.