Apres Lebanon Assad Launches His Own Regime Change

Syrian president Bashar Assad is trying to turn his back on the fiasco of his exit from Lebanon and shore up his regime by a secret crash reform program – although one that is careful not to put the presidency on the block.
Stage one took place in total hush Saturday, April 9.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s exclusive Middle East sources report that Assad wants his epic political and military revolution to be over and done in three months, unlike the Baath revolutions in Iraq and Syria which dragged on through the 1960s and 1970s.
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This is a very tall order as well as a dangerous gamble, considering that Assad is proposing to roll back four decades of Syrian history by June and transform his Baath from a Marxist-socialist ideological movement to a rejuvenated, pragmatic ruling party.
Despite the heavy secrecy imposed on this radical program, a storm of opposition will be hard to avoid. It could go as far as a bid for his ouster.
He proposes to sever the reciprocal lifeline between army and party and shut down the movement’s pan-Arab center, so withdrawing the mother party’s support from the many Baath branches around the Arab world, especially in Lebanon and Jordan. He even seeks to rewrite the national constitution and introduce an open market economy.
But since he grasped Lebanon was a write-off, Assad is quoted by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources as dropping to confidants such remarks as: “I don’t want to see foreign troops in Syria forcing us to accept the sort of reforms imposed on Iraq. We can carry out those reforms on our own.” This tone recalls Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi’s vein in 2003 after he was reconciled to meeting the Bush administration’s demands and ceding his nuclear option and weapons of mass destruction programs.
Our Middle East sources have obtained exclusive access to the details of Assad’s Damascus Spring blueprint from stage one:
1. Sunday, April 3, Baath party branches held meetings across the country to prepare the 10th national party convention in June. The last convention took place five years ago straight after the death of Bashar’s father, President Hafez Assad.
2. Friday, April 1, prior to these meetings, registered Baath members received a memo asking them for input on a new Baath platform amended to adapt the party to modern-day requirements. Proposed amendments were to be forwarded to the following four drafting committees.
A. External Relations Committee
Unbeknownst to the rank and file, this panel was to chart the abolition of the Pan-Arab Commission of the Baath Party, the closure of its Damascus offices and dismissal of its staff.
B. Security Committee
This body worked on severing links between the army and the Baath party. This decision is extremely important because it pulls the rug of party membership from under armed forces appointments and leaves officers to be selected on merit and qualifications.
C. Administrative Committee
This panel was charged with drafting resolutions for the national convention. They were asked to approve a new name for the party, updated goals and a fresh motto. The current motto of Arab Unity, Liberty and Socialism recalled antiquated Marxist socialist values and is therefore to be erased from party literature. The new name proposed is the National Ruling Party of Syria.
After invading Iraq in 2003, the Americans banned Saddam Hussein’s ruling Baath. Two years on, the Syrian ruler actuated by US-French pressures, became convinced that it is to his interest to rub out the Syrian Baath as well.
D. Economy Committee
This panel was assigned to restructure the Syrian economy and oversee its transition to a market economy.
3. A timeline was drawn up for the three critical stages of the Syrian reform program:
April 9 – elections for Baath party branch councils. The plan is to bring fresh blood to the branches to replaces veterans some of whom have been in place 40 years.
April 26 – the newly-elected local branch councils will pick new district bodies.
June – the national party convention will meet to approve the reform program.
The next three months will therefore be crucial for Syria and its ruler.
According to our Middle East sources, Assad’s plan to jettison the old political structures and with them the old guard he inherited from his father exposes him to a fight to the death from such formidable figures as Abdullah al Ahmed, acting general secretary of the Syrian Baath, who took over on Hafez Assad’s death and all three vice presidents Zuheir Masharka, Khalim Haddam and Muhammed Jaber Jabjush. They are all warning Assad that if he goes through with his plan he will be riding for a fall and risk the eclipse of the Assad dynasty in Syria.
Dissent is even broader and deeper among lower Baath echelons and the military officers who treat local Baath branches as their personal power bases.
There are some suggestions in Damascus that Assad cooked up his reform scheme as a decoy to throw off Washington’s complaints on a great many sensitive issues and demonstrate that after leaving Lebanon he has turned his face inward. For one thing, he needs urgently to make up the revenue shortfall generated by the loss of his lucrative grip on Lebanon. Certainly he can afford economic sanctions less than ever before.
He may also be hoping to divert Washington’s attention from the continuing Syrian-Iraqi border traffic he permits on behalf of Iraqi insurgents, the bases and havens he provides Saddam Hussein’s ex-officials, the terrorist bases allowed to operate out of Damascus, the Syria-Iran military alliance, his links with Hizballah, or the Iranian intelligence teams imported to Lebanon and Syria to man early warning and radar stations. None of these issues is addressed in his program of reforms.
There is more than a suggestion that under cover of the Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon, Damascus will retain a clandestine presence through local agents or its own undercover operatives.

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