Syria's Assad: Regime Strong Because of My anti-Israel Stance

Commenting on upheaval in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, Assad said that it is ushering a "new era" in the Middle East and that Arab leaders must do more to adapt to the political and economic ambitions of their people.

Syrian President Bashar Assad told the Wall Street Journal Sunday that he doesn't think he is in danger of being overthrown because his anti-West and anti-Israel stances are the same as his people's.

"Syria is stable. Why? Because you have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people," he told the newspaper in a report published yesterday. "This is the core issue. When there is divergence ... you will have this vacuum that creates disturbances."

assad - AP - November 10 2010
Syrian President Bashar Assad, November 10, 2010.AP

Nevertheless, Assad said he intends to institute political reforms in his country in the near future.

Commenting on upheaval in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, Assad said that it is ushering a "new era" in the Middle East and that Arab leaders must do more to adapt to the political and economic ambitions of their people. "If you didn't see the need of reform before what happened in Egypt and Tunisia, it's too late to do any reform," Assad said.

Assad said he intends to carry out political reforms this year, hold municipal elections and create a new law for the media. He did warn, however, that the reforms will not be quick or extensive, in line with the demands of the demonstrators in Cairo and Tunis.

He said that his country needed time to build institutions and improve education before decisively opening Syria's political system. The rising demands for rapid political reforms could turn out to be counter-productive.

"Is it going to be a new era toward more chaos or more institutionalization? That is the question," Assad said. "The end is not clear yet."

Facebook entries by the Syrian opposition called for a "day of rage" on Friday in Syria. One opposition Facebook page called itself "Syrian Revolution Against Bashar Assad." There are several thousand members on the social network page.

Commenting on his alliance with Iran, Assad said that "nobody can overlook Iran, whether you like it or not."