Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wanted his latest speech to convey a message of both firmness and political openness. He also wanted it to project the [image] that the regime remains powerful in the face of the strong winds blowing at it from all directions. [Assad’s speech] coincided with the escalation of threats between Iran and the United States, and the voicing of disagreement from [many Arab League observers] over the [efficiency] of the Arab [League] observer [mission, tasked...