So, in effect, he is giving the West a warning – stay out of our business, or you will make the situation much worse.
We have heard this already in 2011 – Gaddafi warned of the consequences of his fall, with al-Qaeda taking over Libya and Europe facing a radical Islamist threat on the shores of the Mediterranean. It hasn’t happened.
Of course, as Assad himself points out, Syria is a much more complex society than Libya, with a sizeable Christian minority, which in the worse case scenario could face the fate of Christians in Iraq – with death or exile their choices.
Assad has a powerful ally in Tehran, and just as importantly, Hezbollah in Lebanon – which has greater muscle than the Lebanese army – owes much to Damascus, and seems to be keen to repay the debt. That draws the prospect of an attempt to drag Israel into the Syrian fray. Assad’s threat of an “earthquake” may not be such a passive one – in Israel he has his own seismic trigger.
The fact remains that Assad’s inherited rule is that of a Shia Alawite minority over a country in which the overwhelming majority follow Sunni Islam.
There are a number of tougher figures around Assad, most notably veterans of his father’s rule and his own brother Maher. They are no strangers to violence.
Somebody will die today because of their opposition to Syria’s government, and the sobs of their relatives will mean more for Syria’s future than any empty use of the word “reform”.