In his speech to parliament on April 16, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad drew a line in the sand. He said ‘I’ve given you all these concessions’ and he enumerated them - a new government, lifting emergency rules and the end of the security courts – ‘so there should now be no more demonstrations.’ But the movement didn’t stop. In fact, it transcended the demand for reform and became a call for regime change.
So Assad redefined the protestors. He and the Baath Party began to call the protests a ‘rebellion’ and the protestors ‘terrorists’.
In the subsequent days, Bashar al-Assad sought to ‘shock and awe’ the protestors through violence. He took a page right out of any standard military handbook, which is that if you go fast and strong you have better luck at stopping protests before bloodshed gets out of hand.