In his first speech since June, Assad showed a steely confidence in the face of the uprising, one of the bloodiest of the Arab Spring. But opponents called Tuesday’s speech a rambling address by a leader who is dangerously out of touch.
Assad repeated his past claims that a foreign conspiracy and terrorists are driving the revolt, not peaceful protesters seeking to reform the country.
"We will not be lenient with those who work with outsiders against the country," Assad said in a nearly two-hour speech at Damascus University in a conference hall packed with cheering supporters. He also issued a veiled threat against those who have yet to choose sides.