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Defiant Assad Blames Foreign Meddling for Syria’s Turmoil

January 10, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

GWEN IFILL: Now, an update on the turmoil in Syria, as that country’s embattled president fights back.

We begin with a report from John Ray of Independent Television News in Cairo.

JOHN RAY: Three hundred days of violence and counting, a death toll passing 5,000 and mounting, and yet a confident president paraded before his nation and vowed that victory at any price is close.

BASHAR AL-ASSAD, president of Syria (through translator): This will not be possible unless we hit the murderous terrorists with an iron fist. There will be no compromise with terrorism and no mercy to those who use weapons to create discord and division.

JOHN RAY: The turmoil, he blamed on foreign conspirators, dark forces, including the Arab League.

BASHAR AL-ASSAD (through translator): Has the League succeeded to be independent? Has it ever succeeded to realize any of the people’s dreams? Or has it in fact contributed directly to sowing the seeds of discord and division?

JOHN RAY: As he spoke, these pictures emerged of Assad supporters mobbing a convoy of Arab observers. Eleven were hurt, the timing perhaps no coincidence. It was condemned by Arab leaders in Cairo. But their peace mission is in deep trouble.

Assad’s withering attack on the Arab League, exploiting its divisions and its indecisiveness, aims to kill off their attempts to resolve this crisis. And opposition activists who once thought the world would come to their rescue are losing hope.

RAMI JARRAH, opposition activist: And the only way I think to really solve this issue would be some sort of intervention. But we don’t expect that anyone wants to intervene. So it’s just too messy.

JOHN RAY: So, while the world remains reluctant to act, there’s a president who believes he’s winning.