Syria announced today that its “government” has resigned, but don’t get your hopes up. That doesn’t mean that Bashar Assad will be looking for suites in London to open an ophthalmology practice:
The Syrian government resigned Tuesday amid an unusual wave of unrest that has roiled the nation, state TV reported.
President Bashar al-Assad accepted the resignations Tuesday, the same day that tens of thousands of Syrians poured onto the streets of Damascus to demonstrate in favor of the government.
A new government should be named in a few hours, said Reem Haddad, a spokeswoman for the Syrian Information Ministry.
Meanwhile, the president plans to make “a very important speech” on Wednesday, she said. The speech will “reassure the Syrian people,” the state-run SANA news agency has reported.
The government made sure that this demonstration got plenty of coverage on state-run television:
How can you tell that this is a government-staged Astroturf demonstration? The security forces aren’t firing into the crowd. Just to make sure that Syrians got the point even if they didn’t watch TV today, the government staged demonstrations in three other cities, including Hama, where Assad’s father once slaughtered 10,000 people for opposing his regime. Putting on a pro-Assad demonstration in Hama was obviously meant to send a message.
Assad promises to send another message tomorrow in a national speech, which will undoubtedly try to pre-empt much of the protests by claiming he’s working on their concerns. Whatever ills they have protested will be blamed on the previous government, even though Assad runs the show himself. He will pose himself as a man of the people and tell Syrians that the protests, while based on some legitimate concerns, were really fomented by Western infiltrators and Zionist spies, which is why his security forces started shooting them in the streets. Wait, scratch that last part — Assad will claim that the shooters were actually the Western infiltrators and Zionist spies.
Will Syrians be fooled by these pretenses? I’d doubt it, and the move is likely to backfire on Assad. No one living in Syria would be under the illusion that any systemic practice of the regime isn’t approved by the dictator, as the massacre in Hama proved decades ago. The protesters will likely see this move as a signal of weakness and fear, and keep up the pressure.