Monday 20 November 2017

Robert Fisk: Assad will only go if his own tanks turn against him

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.

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