Assad purges Syrian security services ahead of new bid for Beirut
Syrian president Bashar Assad has ordered 40 intelligence and army officers arrested and replaced by men personally loyal to him in preparation for planned moves to recover his grip on Lebanon, debkafile‘s sources in Washington and Beirut disclose. The Obama administration warned the Syrian ruler to desist from his maneuverings to orchestrate a victory for Hizballah and its allies in Lebanon’s July 7 elections. The warning was delivered by two US emissaries who met Syrian foreign minister Walild Moalem in Damascus Saturday, March 7.
US intelligence estimates that Assad’s power at home is on the ascendant, emboldening him to attempt to manipulate the Lebanese elections in favor of pro-Syrian elements. The Syrian president is aiming for a new government in Beirut that will agree to boycott the international tribunal in the Hague set up to bring the murderers of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri to justice.
The court held its first sitting last Sunday.
At the outset of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Middle East trip last Monday,
Washington had no plans to send envoys to Damascus. Only after discovering large numbers of Syrian agents armed with wads of cash streaming into Beirut, did the administration decide to consign State Department official Jeffrey Feltman and National Security Council member Daniel Shapiro to Damascus to caution Assad to keep his hands off Lebanon.
The two US officials called in at Beirut first for consultations and, after meeting the Syrian foreign minister, returned to the Lebanese capital with a report for prime minister Fouad Siniora.