Bashar al-Assad
Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad Creative Commons

The Arab League on Monday handed Syrian officials a plan for ending months of violent unrest against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. The international community has put increasing pressure on the Assad regime, warning of foreign intervention if the President allows the bloodshed to continue.

But in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Assad has dismissed any prospect of talks with the Syrian National Council - the regime's main opposition - saying it would be a "waste" of time.

In a candid statement reminiscent of Col Gaddafi's blinkered defiance of the unrest in his country, he also warned that any form of foreign intervention would "cause an earthquake" across the Middle East.

"Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. If the plan is to divide Syria, that is to divide the whole region."

Assad, like Gaddafi, has previously denied his citizens were rising against him, and blamed the protests on "saboteurs" and extremists. Opposition groups and activists have accused the Syrian leader of raising false fears to deter action against his regime, which has killed at least 3,000 civilians in the past few months.

In the face of escalating violence and brutal crackdown on protesters, Assad's fate does seem to eerily mimic that of the late Libyan dictator - but there are significant differences between the situations in the two countries that suggest the Alawite leader may not face the same bloody demise as the notorious Col Gaddafi.

Firstly, the international community has been much more reluctant to become involved in Syria than it was in Libya - sceptics have pointed to the strategic concerns of oil and gas supplies in the case of Gaddafi. Despite calls on Assad to cease his crackdown on protesters, little assistance has been given to Syrian activists - whilst Libyan rebels were armed and trained by foreign forces, those in Syria have effectively been left to fend for themselves.

Secondly, the demographics of the two countries are also very different, and have had a knock-on effect on the nature and make-up of the protests themselves. Syria's social patchwork of ethnic diversities make it vulnerable to a potential civil war, while Libya's tribal structures were, arguably, a contributing factor to the organisation and proliferation of the armed struggle to overthrow Gaddafi's regime.

For the moment, Assad remains in a much stronger position that Col Gaddafi was even a few months ago. He has the backing of the ruling Alawite sect, as well as the notorious secret police and military. Protests are mostly confined to smaller towns since it has become difficult to organise and instigate such demonstrations in Damascus due to the heavy policing of the capital's streets. But this may soon change.

As international focus shifts from Libya to Syria, the increasingly likely prospect of foreign intervention may well come to fruition to help Syrians topple their embattled President. If that happens, then in the scenario in which Assad himself comes face to face with an embittered mob of his own civilians, he too may face the same humiliating fate as the late Libyan dictator.