I speak to you at an extraordinary moment when events and developments seem to pose a test to our unity and altruism. It is a test which, as circumstances would have it, recurs every so often due to the continuous conspiracies against this country. And it is our will and solidarity, and God's will, that, when facing it, we pass it every time with flying colors, which only enhances our strength and immunity.

I know full well that the Syrian people have been waiting for this speech since last week. I deliberately delayed giving it until the picture became clear in my mind, or at least some of the main headlines of this picture. This way, today's speech would stay clear from emotional rhetoric which comforts people but does not alter or impact anything, at the time when our enemies are working every day, in an organized and scientific way, in order to strike at Syria's stability. Of course, we acknowledge their cunning in selecting highly advanced methods in what they have done, but we also acknowledge their stupidity in selecting the wrong country and people, where this type of conspiracies does not succeed.

We tell them, you have no choice but to continue to learn from your failure. As for the Syrian people, it has no other choice other than to continue to learn from its successes.

Brothers, you are aware of the major changes taking place in our region over the past few months. They are major and important changes that will have repercussions on the entire region without exception; on the Arab states but maybe even beyond. This concerns Syria, as it is part of these states.

However, if we wished to look at what concerns us, as Syria, in what has happened so far in this great Arab arena, we can say that what has happened vindicates the Syrian perspective from a very important angle. What has happened expresses a popular consensus. When there is a popular consensus we should be assured, whether we agree or disagree on many points. What does this mean? It means that the Arab popular condition which was marginalized for decades ... has now returned to the center of events in our region. This Arab condition had not changed. They tried to domesticate it but it didn't succumb, and this will have much impact.

As far as we are concerned, you recall how in my previous speeches, I used to always speak about the Arab street, and the street's compass; about the opinion of the citizen. Many in the press used to sometimes ridicule this. And foreign politicians used to reject this and smile, especially during our meetings when Syria was under severe pressure. They used to propose to us proposals that went counter to and in contradiction with our interests, and which included conspiring against the Resistance and against other Arabs. When the pressure used to mount I used to tell them, even if I were to accept these proposals, the people would not accept it. And if the people did not accept it, they will reject me, and that would mean political suicide. Of course, they used to smile incredulously. Today after these [popular] movements, there have been several meetings where I repeated the same talk, and they agreed with me.

...

The other side has to do with the directions of the Arab peoples toward the central causes, at the forefront of which is the Palestinian cause. We believe and hope that our belief is correct, that these changes will lead to a change in the course of the Palestinian cause, on which it has been for the last two or three decades. A change from the course of compromises to the course of adhering to rights.

...

Syria is not isolated from what is happening in the Arab world. We are part of this region. We interact. We influence and we are influenced. At the same time, however, we are not a copy of other countries. No one country resembles the other. We in Syria have characteristics that may be different in the domestic as well as in the foreign realms.

Domestically, our policy was built on development and openness; on direct communication between me and the people and citizens ... regardless of what was and what was not achieved. In terms of general principles, these are the principles of domestic policy.

Our foreign policy has been based on adhering to national and pan-Arab rights, rights to independence, and support of Arab resistance where there is occupation. The link between domestic and foreign policies has always been the same thing I noted earlier, that the compass for us in everything we do is the citizen.

...

At any rate, the outcome of these two policies has been an unprecedented state of national unity in Syria. This national condition has been the reason, or the energy, or the true protector of Syria in the previous few years when pressures against Syria began. ... Through [our national unity] we managed to maintain Syria's central role.

...

Increasing or maintaining this role, with its principles that are rejected by others, will push enemies to work to weaken it through other means. ... You are aware that Syria today is being subjected to a major conspiracy, with strings extending to countries near and far, and with some strings inside the country. This conspiracy is relying -- in its timing, not its form -- on what is taking places in Arab countries.

Today there is a new fad, which they consider to be revolutions, but we don't call them that, because they are mostly a popular condition. But for them, if something is going on, it provides cover for action in Syria. There's revolution there and a revolution here. There's reform there and reform here. The tools are all the same, slogans of freedom. So if there are truly those who call for reform, and I believe we are all calling for reform, we will proceed with them without knowing what is truly happening. So they cunningly mixed three elements ... sedition, reform, and daily needs. Most Syrians call for reform, and you are all reformers. Most Syrians have needs which have not been met, and we had our disagreements, our discussions and our criticisms because we have not met the needs of many citizens. However, sedition has joined the fray and has begun to lead the other two factors, and hide behind them. That is why it was easy to trick many of the people who came out to the streets at first with good intentions. We cannot say that everyone who came out were conspirators. That is not true. We want to be realistic and clear.

Conspirators are always few in number. That is obvious. Even we in government did not know the truth. Like everyone else, we did not understand what was happening, until acts of sabotage clarified things. What is the relationship between reform and sabotage? What is the relationship between reform and killing? Some satellite TV stations say, "they're always thinking of conspiracies." There is no conspiracy theory. Conspiracy exists in the world. Conspiracy is part of human nature. In some satellite TV stations they announced the sabotage of specific public buildings a full hour before they were attacked. How did they know?

...

When things became clearer, it was difficult for us at first to fight this matter, since people would confuse our combatting sedition with fighting reform. We are for reform. We are for meeting needs. This is the duty of the state. However, we can never be for sedition. And when the Syrian people revealed, through its popular and national awareness, what was going on, things became simpler. The response followed, and it came from the citizens more so than the state. As you noticed, the state took a back seat and left the response to the citizens, which is what achieved a sound, safe, level and patriotic treatment, and quickly restored national unity to Syria.

What we are seeing now is one stage out of many that we do not yet know. Is it the first stage? Are they advanced stages? But we care about one thing, and that is the final stage, which is the weakening and fragmentation of Syria. For Syria to fall and for the last obstacle facing the Israeli plan to be removed.

...

They first started with incitement. Incitement began weeks before the disturbances in Syria. They began incitement on satellite TV stations and on the internet, and they did not achieve anything. Then, during sedition, they moved to falsehoods. They falsified information, sounds, images, everything. They then adopted the sectarian angle. This angle relied on the use of cell phone short text messages to tell one sect, "be careful, the other sect will attack you," while telling the same to the other sect. ... However, we were able, through meetings with influential notables, to  prevent sedition. That's when they interfered with weapons and began randomly killing people in order for there to be blood.

...

We have not yet uncovered the whole structure -- only a part of the structure has been revealed, but it is an organized structure. There are support groups with people in more than one province and abroad. There are media groups, there are falsification groups, and there are groups for eyewitnesses. They are previously organized groups.

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They began in the province of Deraa. ... Deraa is the frontline province with the Israeli enemy. The frontline defends the rear lines. ... It cannot be that the same person who defends the nation is simultaneously conspiring against it or harming it. This kind of talk is impossible and unacceptable. Consequently, the people of Deraa do not bear any responsibility for what has happened. But they share responsibility with us in burying sedition. We are with Deraa as are all Syrians.

...

They then moved the plan to other cities, and as you know, it moved to Lattakia and other cities, using the same tools: murder, intimidation, incitement, and so forth. We gave specific instructions not to injure any Syrian citizen. Unfortunately, when things descend to the street and the conversation takes place in the street, outside institutions, then things naturally descend into chaos and reactive measures prevail, and what we call mistakes of the moment become prevalent, and blood is shed, and that is what happened.

...

Part of what is happening today resembles what happened in 2005. It's a virtual war, and I said at the time that they want us to sign an unconditional surrender for free, through a virtual war in the media and on the internet. ... Today, the same principle is at play: a planned virtual defeat of Syria, but using something different. There is chaos in the country for various reasons, essentially operating under the headline of reform. This chaos and the headlines of reform will lead to sects. Anxious sects. Sects at odds and at war with each other, and thus achieving Syria's virtual defeat.

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There remains a central question. We talk about the changes that happened in the region on the premise that they are a wave. Every time we ask someone they tell us there is a wave and you must bend. Fine. Regardless of what we analyzed earlier about the positive aspects of this wave, should the wave lead us or should we lead it? When this wave enters Syria, it concerns Syrians. If it comes it is an energy force but this energy must be guided according to our interests. We are proactive, not reactive.

...

What I want to get at from all this is one thing only. When I started by asking how should we deal with this matter, what I wanted to say was that reform is not a seasonal fad. When it is merely a reflection of a wave being experienced by the region, then it is destructive, regardless of its content. That is what I said in my talk with the Wall Street Journal two months ago, when things began to deteriorate in Egypt and they asked me about reform, "what about Syria? Do you want to reform?" I told him, if you have not already begun, and did not already have the intention and the plan to reform, then you are already too late. If we did not already have this intention and vision, it would all be over; no need to waste our time. No, we and all the people and the government have this intention. And I wish to confirm another point, as it is my custom to be honest with you. This question was asked of me by more than one foreign official who passed by Syria recently. They wanted to know for sure if the president was a reformist but those around him were holding him back. I would tell them, on the contrary. They are the ones who are strongly pushing me forward. The point I want to make is that there are no obstacles.  There is a delay. But there is nobody who objects to reform, and those who object are those with special interests and the corrupt, and you know who they are. It was a minority that no longer exists. A limited minority you know by name. But now there are no real obstacles. And I think that the challenge now is what kind of reform do we want to achieve. Therefore, we have to avoid subjecting the reform process to these momentary circumstances, which could be passing, in order not to harvest counterproductive results.

...

Some have asked me to announce a timetable now in the People's Assembly. But announcing a timetable for any subject matter is a technical issue. I may announce a time table that is far less than what is necessary for this condition, and the resulting pressure would affect quality. I think it is our duty to present the best to the Syrian people, and not the quickest. We want to move quickly, but not to be hasty.

In any case, there will be those today who will say on satellite TV stations that this is not enough. We tell them, we do not have what is enough to destroy our country. On this occasion, do not be angry at what some satellite TV stations have done, because they always fall in the same trap. They try to impinge on us and on the Syrian people, In truth, they adopt the principle of lie until you believe your lie.

...

Burying sedition is a national, moral, and religious duty. Anyone who can contribute to burying it and does not do so is complicit in it. Sedition is worse than killing, as the Holy Qur'an says. Anyone who is involved in it, willfully or not, is working to kill his country. Therefore, there is no place for anyone to stand in the middle. What is at stake is not the government, but the homeland. The conspiracy is great, and we do not seek battles. The Syrian people is a peaceful, gentle people. However, we have never hesitated to defend our causes, our interests and our principles. If the battle is imposed on us today, we welcome it.

Translation by Tony Badran

For more translations and other material about the uprisings across the Arab world, please check out Foreign Affairs/CFR new ebook, The New Arab Revolt: What Happened, What It Means, and What Comes Next. It is  available for purchase in multiple formats including PDF, Kindle, and Nook.

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