Syria’s Al-Assad takes oath of office for third term

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Bashar al-Assad

President Bashar al-Assad was sworn on Wednesday in Damascus for a third seven-year term as president of Syria after an election last month that opponents dismissed as a “farce”.
After taking the oath of office with a Koran and a copy of the constitution, the president of 14 years delivered a defiant speech, vowing to recover all Syria from Islamist insurgents.
Looking calm and confident, he repeatedly took aim at the West and Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab monarchies that have funded and armed rebels.
The rebels have taken control of much of the north and east of the country but failed to topple him in Damascus.
“Soon, we will see the Arab, regional and Western states that supported terrorism pay a high price,” he said.
The Syria war has been the battleground for a sectarian struggle between groups supported by Sunni Muslim states including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and Assad’s government backed by Shi’ite Iran.
Last month it spread dramatically to Iraq, where an al Qaeda offshoot called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) surged across the border.
It seized cities, changed the country’s name to the Islamic State and declared its leader ruler of all Muslims.
ISIL has officially been rejected as a terrorist group by the Gulf States that support other Sunni fighters in Syria.
Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran all blame the Gulf kingdoms for supporting the wider Sunni militancy that feeds it.
Since advancing in Iraq, ISIL has also expanded its reach in Syria, using weapons seized from the fleeing Iraqi army to fight against rival rebel factions in Syria.
Although the rebels made early gains, Iran and Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah Shi’ite militia came to the aid of Assad’s forces, helping them reclaim territory.
Western countries dismissed last month’s election as a sham, but Assad’s victory affirmed him in power and shut down any talk of a negotiated settlement that would see him step aside.

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