Assad sworn in for third term as Syrian president

Says Arab Spring dead, with world’s focus on militants

President Bashar Assad appeared relaxed and confident during his inauguration.
President Bashar Assad appeared relaxed and confident during his inauguration.

BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar Assad declared victory over those who had sought to overthrow him as he embarked Wednesday on a third term in office, buoyed by a growing extremist threat in the region that has helped cement his hold on power.

With jihadists rampaging across neighboring Iraq and the focus of Western powers shifting to containing terrorism, a relaxed and confident Assad made it clear that he no longer perceives a challenge to his 14-year-old presidency, now extended by another seven years after a tightly controlled election last month.

Addressing lawmakers and officials at his inauguration, Assad said the carnage unleashed by the Syrian civil war proved right his warning that the revolt against him was a terrorist conspiracy and that those who supported the efforts to oust him will suffer consequences.


‘‘We warned that this is a crisis that won’t stop at Syria, but some said the Syrian president was threatening the world with empty words,’’ Assad said in an hourlong speech, delivered at his mountaintop presidential palace overlooking Damascus.

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‘‘Isn’t what we see now in Iraq, Lebanon, and other countries of the ‘spring’ exactly what we warned against repeatedly?’’ he asked. ‘‘We will see later how the West will pay the price, too.’’

The ceremony culminated a year in which Assad turned the tide of the three-year-old revolt, which began with peaceful demonstrations in 2011 but mutated into an armed rebellion after he ordered troops to crush them.

Extremists, notably those with an affiliate of Al Qaeda that fought US troops in neighboring Iraq, soon joined the revolt, and the tenor of the conflict changed.

Assad touched on the need to rebuild Syria’s economy and to continue to forge the localized cease-fires that have helped return much of the central and western part of the country to government control.