Syrian President Bashar Assad, who despite being pretty much an evil dictator was democratically elected, is playing hard-to-get when it comes to the question of whether he'll run for reelection next year. According to an interview that aired late last night on Turkey's private Halk TV, Asaad said he will only run "If I have a feeling that the Syrian people want me to be president in the coming period I will run for the post... If the answer is no, I will not run and I don't see a problem in that."
So, wait a second: over two years into a civil war, and more than 100,000 of his own people dead, and now he's being reasonable?
Assad said the "picture will be clearer" in the next four to five months. Apparently, Asaad says, the country is going through some "rapid changes on the ground."
There's also of course that small matter of all the stuff hitting the fan after the U.S. threatened an airstrike on Syria following Asaad's Aug. 21 alleged chemical weapons attack. Assad is suspected of using sarin gas, considered by UN conventions a weapon of mass destruction, to kill hundreds of people in Damascus suburbs that were under control of opposition forces.
As part of an agreement to avoid a punitive strike, UN task force officials are in Syria right now overseeing the arsenal's destruction. Assad appears to be cooperating.
Assad's ministers, for their part, are thoroughly optimistic about his future political prospects. "The people demand this," said Information Minister Omran Zoubi, speaking for literally every one of Syria's 22,457,336 people. Better Assad than "the opposition, the Americans, the traitors, and the spies," he added, subtly.
Most top officials in Assad's government come from the president's religious sect. Alawite Muslims are a minority in the country, and they say Assad has filled his top positions with Alawites in order to garner loyalty from other members of the sect, who remain supportive of his presidency.
Assad's opposition, however, is of course eager to get him out of office. If they succeed, plans are to form a transitional government until elections could be held.
Asaad also took the opportunity on Halk TV to threaten Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after the leader allowed foreign fighters to enter Syria from their shared border. Assad alleges that they are Muslim extremists from 80 different countries.
"This government, represented by Erdogan, is responsible for the blood of tens of thousands of Syrians, and is responsible for the destruction of Syria's infrastructure," Assad said, adding that Turkey would pay "very dearly for its contribution."
Fighting continues near the Turkish border today, where rebel groups are trying to call a ceasefire between insurgents and an al Qaeda affiliate in Azaz, a strategic town for border crossings. Turkey's kept the border closed since September out of security concerns.
If anyone wants some fun Friday lunch-break TV (not), the official account for the Syrian presidency tweeted that the interview will be linked on their feed and Facebook account at 2 p.m. EST today.