Assad and the Syrian Army Are Gaining, Putting the Rebels to Retreat
On Thursday, June 21, just two days after Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin found nothing about Syria to agree on in their conversation at the G-20 Summit in Mexico, the US and Britain wre on the move.
US media were informed by “American officials and Arab intelligence officers” that “a small number of C.I.A. officers” are operating secretly in southern Turkey, “helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government.” They have been there several weeks since April.
“The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar,” the officials said.
The administration was said to be weighing additional assistance to the rebels, “like providing satellite imagery and other detailed intelligence on Syrian troop locations and movements.” The administration is also considering whether to help the opposition set up a rudimentary intelligence service.
Beyond official confirmation, apparently sanctioned by the White House, this report contains nothing new – certainly not for readers of DEBKA-Net-Weekly, who learned about the supply of US weapons to the Syrian rebels in early April.
US, UK and Saudis get together to ease Assad out of power
Thursday, too, sources in London close to Prime Minister David Cameron's bureau leaked word that Bashar Assad was to be offered safe passage to Switzerland to attend peace talks under plans being drawn up by Britain and America to end the crisis in Syria.
British officials believe it is now "worth having a go" at attempting to negotiate a "transitional process" for Syria that would involve the president relinquishing power. The idea was discussed by David Cameron and Barack Obama at the G20 Summit in Mexico this week.
Another secret move on Syria related to the first two is revealed here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources: It is a meeting held in Riyadh Tuesday, June 18, between Saudi King Abdullah and Rifaat Ali al-Assad, the Syrian president’s uncle and younger brother of his father, former President Hafez Assad.
Rifaat has lived in exile for 20 years – a businessman on the move between Spain, France and Saudi Arabia.
His conversation with the Saudi king went on for more than an hour.
It was the clearest sign so far that Saudi rulers are willing to consider a Syrian solution that would remove Bashar Assad from power, arrange diplomatic asylum for him in Switzerland or Russia and have him replaced by another member of the Assad clan untainted by complicity in the brutal suppression of the Syrian uprising, and in opposition to the incumbent ruler.
Assad is winning this round, so why would he step down?
The crux of this solution would be to leave the regime in Alawite hands and so retain the backing of the Syrian army, most of whose commanders are members of that sect, and also possibly that of Tehran.
The trouble with the finely nuanced plans bandied between Washington, London and Riyadh is that they fly in the face of the harsh reality inside Syria where Assad is prevailing.
1. Loyal Syrian troops this week finished routing rebel forces led by the Free Syrian Army holed up in the past year in Jabal al-Zawiya strongholds near the Turkish border. This pocket of resistance was one of the last to be flushed out in northern Syria and is now under army control.
Rebel forces have also been driven out of Idlib town and district, as well as Latakia and all the suburbs and neighborhoods around Damascus.
2. Western and Arab military and intelligence sources daily monitoring events in Syria report mass eastward military movements since mid-week out of the bloodiest former flashpoint towns of the north, Homs and Hama.
The can’t explain what is going on, but think it likely that Assad is preparing a major offensive to purge the vast area between Palmyra in central Syria up to the Iraqi and Syrian borders.
3. At the most active battle fields, the Syrian general staff appears to be replacing regular combat units with new recruits to the pro-Assad Alawite Shabiha militia.
4. Notable too is the sharp decline in rebel military activity and popular demonstrations against the Assad regime.
5. This is paralleled by a conspicuous rise in al Qaeda terrorist attacks. Video clips out of Syria depict an increasing number of Iraq-style suicide bombings like cases of explosives-laden cars driven by suicide attackers blowing up at police or Syrian army checkpoints.
The second half of June 2012 therefore finds Assad firmly in control of the Syrian battlefield and making good headway against his enemies, whereas the rebel offensive is fast losing ground notwithstanding the support of the US, the British, the French, the Saudis and the Qataris.
Why then would Washington, London and Riyadh imagine Assad accepting their promptings to step down?