Assad’s latest speech

As far as I can gather, Bashar al-Assad said absolutely nothing new or remarkable in his defiant speech today in Damascus (his first in six months).

It’s worth watching the last few minutes, however (as he tries to change the subject to Palestine), to see the desperate adulation of his handpicked audience as they raise their fists, chant and swarm around him. (I suspect some of them are thinking, “When your helicopter lifts off for the airport, please take me with you.”)

The theater was packed with his supporters who interrupted the speech with applause, cheers and occasional fist-waving chants, including “God, Bashar and Syria!”
The Internet was cut in many parts of Damascus ahead of the address, apparently for security reasons, and some streets were closed.

At the end of his speech, loyalists shouted: “With our blood and souls we redeem you, Bashar!”

As he was leaving the hall, supporters pushed forward and swarmed around him to try to talk to him. Nervous security guards tried to push them away.

Many shouted “Shabiha forever!” — referring to the armed regime loyalists whom rebels have blamed for sectarian killings.

Shabiha forever? That shabiha?

Yes, that shabiha.