The many promises of Bashar al-Assad

Reporting on the promises of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has become farcical.

His latest assurance came this week through UN diplomats who told reporters that the president pledged to evacuate his security forces from population centers by April 10.

Extracting the commitment might give credence to the work of the United Nations and its special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, if there was any chance Assad would follow through on the spirit of such a commitment.

But it's a promise, like his many other promises in the last year, that will almost certainly be broken.

Assad's vows have come almost weekly since the uprising began. And they are broken often times within days, or even hours.

A little over a year ago, Assad promised to abolish the much-maligned emergency law that gives his security forces license to violently crackdown on threats to the state. A month later he again promised to lift the controversial law. Four days later the Syrian cabinet said it backed the law's removal.

On April 21, 2011, there was little celebration when Assad finally made good on the promise. Little changed. His security forces continued to operate under the same impunity the law sanctioned.

More from GlobalPost: Lifting of emergency law unlikely to change anything

On June 20, 2011, Assad made a rare public speech, promising to amend the constitution and call his soldiers back to the barracks. Three days later the country's foreign minister promised "serious reforms." Syria would eventually hold a referendum on a new constituion, but it would do so amid violent crackdowns throughout the country. Turkish officials said it doubted the vote was legitimate. US officials called it "laughable."

"It makes a mockery of the Syrian revolution," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at the time. "Promises of reforms have been usually followed by increase in brutality and have never been delivered upon by this regime since the beginning of peaceful demonstrations in Syria."

Fast forward. The pattern has not changed. Last week's assault on Saraqeb, the second-largest city in Idlib province, for instance, unfolded after Assad agreed to a ceasefire.

So what are we to make of the UN announcement that Assad will withdraw his forces this month? If history is any judge, not much.

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