In the past few weeks, Assad has escalated military operations – shelling neighborhoods in previously loyal cities, unleashing militias (5000 Syrians were killed in August alone), and not insignificantly he has also stepped up public relations efforts. Assad invited UK Journalist Robert Fisk of The Independent to Syria, arranged an interview with Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, allowed him to embed within Syrian forces battling insurgents in Aleppo and interview imprisoned foreign fighters and Syrian jihadists. Fisk visited prisons (where he portrayed the intelligence officers at one of Syria’s most notorious military prison as friendly), and one of the prisoners he interviewed told Fisk he was fine. Assad himself granted an interview to the pro-regime Addounia TV last week, insisting ”Syria will return to the Syria before the crisis.”
Even Assad realizes he needs to spin media – and while there is no consensus on the UN Security Council regarding Syria, and America doesn’t need a new conflict in the Middle East, Assad must believe public relations can help him hang onto power in Syria.
It has served his regime well until now – In February 2011, a glowing profile in Vogue Magazine described Asma al-Assad, Syria’s First Lady, as “glamorous, young, and very chic – the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies.”
Frankly, both Bahrain and Syria’s leaders are resourceful – they murder, oppress, and spin the media utilizing public relations as part of their force to stay in power.
While Bahrain spends a huge amount of $32 million dollars on public relations in a short period of time, Syria’s Assad has a long history of understanding publicity. While Arab dictators murder with impunity, public relations firms should be ashamed for assisting them to remain in power.
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