Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Reuters

On Tuesday, embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad blamed 10 months of violence in his country on external conspirators.

In a nationwide address delivered from Damascus University, Assad said that terrorists and possibly international governments are to blame for the killing and mass protests that have consumed his country for nearly a year.

The mask has fallen off these faces, he said. No wise person denies these international conspiracies that (are) being done in order to spread fear inside. But this time, it was done with people from inside.

“This is not a revolution,” Assad told an audience that later chanted his name. “Is it possible that he is a revolutionary and a traitor at the same time? This is impossible. If there were true revolutionaries, we would be walking together.”

More than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria since anti-government protests began in March. It is widely believed that Assad has sent tanks, helicopters, snipers and soldiers into cities across the country in order to quash the movement. In the city of Homs, which has become the capital of revolution, one person was shot dead by government forces on Tuesday, according to CNN.

But for Assad, the battle will go on and the president vowed to continue to fight against the external threats.

“There can be no let-up for terrorism -- it must be hit with an iron fist,” he said. “The battle with terrorism is a battle for everyone, a national battle, not only the government’s battle.

Victory is near.”

The latest development of the Syrian uprising is that a group of defected soldiers called the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has taken up arms against Assad and actually are attacking and killing government forces on occasion, as Assad suggested. After joining with the non-violent opposition, the FSA now acts primarily as a security force but the group is credited with blowing up military bases near Damascus.

During his televised speech on Tuesday, Assad promised that systemic changes and social reforms are on the way. He said that a referendum for a new constitution will be held within two months -- in March, and then elections in May or June.

Still, he contrasted that by saying that the Syrian people were not upset by the current system of government.

“When I rule, I rule because that it is the people’s will and when I leave office, I leave because it is the people’s will,” Assad said.

Our priority now is to regain [the] security [in] which we basked in for decades, and this can only be achieved by hitting the terrorists with an iron fist, he said, adding we will not be lenient with those who work with outsiders against the country.

The foreign conspiracy charges are hardly a new facet of the Syrian protests. Since the beginning Assad has maintained that foreign agents have been trying to destroy the country from within, using the uprising as a guise to murder troops and harm national security.

Assad told Barbara Walters in December that no government in the world kills its people, unless it is led by a crazy person, and blamed every brute reaction and act of violence on individuals not acting as part of the state institution.