It was the biggest performance in the short history of the Damascus Opera House. On Sunday, Jan. 6, a worldwide audience watched embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad take center stage and deliver a familiar monologue on the legitimacy, resilience, and victimization of his authoritarian regime.

Assad has made four similar speeches since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in March 2011: two at the Syrian People’s Assembly, described by journalist Brian Whitaker as “a temple for the Assad cult,” and two in Damascus University’s main auditorium. For the past six months, however, the Syrian leader has remained silent and conveyed his messages through his armed forces and their increasingly indiscriminate use of firepower against the country’s population.

Perhaps rebel gains and rumors of Assad’s impending flight from the capital prompted this latest public appearance, a grandiose setup to reassure loyalists and reaffirm his intransigence. [Link]