Robert Fisk: Assad will only go if his own tanks turn against him
Published 17/11/2011 | 05:00
IN Damascus earlier this month, Syrian state television asked me for an interview on events in Syria. With much trepidation, I accepted, promising the presenter he would not like all I said. The interview went ahead and I said that President Bashar al-Assad was "running out of time -- fast". The Arab people, I added, could no longer be infantilised; there was clearly an armed insurgency under way in Syria to overthrow the regime. When I was told later that the translation had not been finished in time, I smiled with my usual cynicism.
But almost incredibly, the interview duly aired on Syrian state television -- and to my utter astonishment, they ran the lot (they used near-perfect subtitling), including the remarks about Assad "running out of time -- fast".
What happened? Did this have the president's approval? Or was the government -- or some part of the dictatorship -- trying to show that they were in no doubt about how serious the near-civil war had become? I don't know. And my Middle Eastern crystal ball broke many years ago. But I'll hazard a dangerous prediction: Assad's time is running out, fast -- but don't believe the State Department, the EU or the Arab League. He ain't going yet.