Another Purge in Damascus

Syrian president Bashar Assad has launched the biggest purge of Syrian military intelligence, the Mukhabarat, in years, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources reveal. In all, 71 high officers were sent into early retirement without prior notice.

General Mahmoud Zeidan, head of the Mukhabarat’s political security department, and his deputy, General Riad Hussein, topped the list of “retirees, which was made up of 44 officers from the rank of brigadier-general and up, 12 colonels and five lieutenant-colonels.

Our sources say three were arrested and thrown into military prison for no immediately known reason.

The purge denoted the strengthened position Interior Minister Ghazi Kenaan has carved out in the Syrian hierarchy. Appointed to the post in the fall of 2004, Kenaan told Assad his acceptance of the ministry was contingent on the president placing all Syrian intelligence arms under his jurisdiction (as DNW 178 reported on October 22, 2004). Assad assented and has now taken the first major step toward meeting this demand.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources note that Kenaan favors wide-ranging political and economic reforms in Syria and better relations with Washington. He is also one of the few senior intelligence officials in Syria with no history of involvement in Assad’s dealings with former officials of the Saddam Hussein regime.

On the other hand, he is very tight with the Lebanese Hizballah group and the chiefs of Palestinian terrorist organizations.

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