Assad Sees His Army Can’t Shoot the Uprising into Submission

Syrian President Bashar Assad has begun to understand that he will never beat the revolt against his regime by military means. After his army gunned down protesters month after month – only to have them rally again –he was finally brought this week to awareness of the futility of the violence he was orchestrating by five developments. They are outlined here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military, intelligence and Washington sources:
1. A secret US-Russian agreement is now in play to ease him out of power and replace him in government with outside political forces unrelated to the Assad clan and its support system.
Assad took note of the joint US-Russian diplomatic mechanism at work for ending the Libyan war. He was also tipped off by various intelligence sources about an order President Barack Obama has just issued to open up all US covert conduits and back channels to Syrian opposition activists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, after years of disuse.
The order followed a White House decision to ask opposition groups to produce an agreed political platform and plan of action for implementation as soon as Bashar Assad goes. This would aim to provide an orderly bridge for the transition of power and prevent chaos and civil warfare. Washington has learned its lesson from Egypt which is still sunk in lawlessness and violence six months after Hosni Mubarak stepped down.

The Trojan horse ploy planned for the Syrian army

2. Assad also received intelligence that the US is urging the opposition to plant Trojan Horses inside Syrian armed forces – both in the high command and junior officer ranks. Washington is said to have advised opposition activists to work with Gen. Hikmat Shehabi, Syrian chief of staff from 1974 to 1998, who fled the country to escape corruption charges and lives with his son in Los Angeles.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources have no information about whether the Americans have approached Shehabi and gained his consent to taking part in the scheme for ending Assad's rule – or whether he is already getting ready for the move.
This gambit was pursued in Libya when, in mid-March, the Americans flew Gen. Khalifa Haftr, self-proclaimed commander of the Free Libyan Army, from his home in Fairfax, Virginia to the rebel base in Benghazi
3. The Syrian ruler has been given to understand that, for the purpose of getting rid of him, the Americans and Saudis may be working hand in glove. That is why the US and French ambassadors in Damascus, Robert Ford and Eric Chevallier, after their solidarity trip to the protest center at Hama, were this week trying to reach the eastern Syrian towns of Deir al-Zour and Abu Kamal close to the Iraq border, where Saudi intelligence agents are embedded among the rebels barricaded there.
A stop was put to the effort to make contact with them Wednesday, July 20, when Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem cautioned the two ambassadors against leaving Damascus without permission.
The Saudis have meanwhile further ratcheted up their campaign for Assad's overthrow. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources report that this week, Saudi dollars were funneled to the leaders of different opposition groups to keep their resistance operations afloat and, Tuesday, July 19, a new Saudi-backed television station began broadcasting anti-Assad reports – apparently from Dubai. The station calls itself Shabab Syria (Syrian Youth).

Syria will never be the same again

4. Assad can no longer ignore the disastrous pace of Syrian army desertions. According to the figures presented to him this week, 12,000 servicemen have gone AWOL including 300 officers of various ranks, one of them a lieutenant colonel.
Most of the deserters hail from the big cities where the army and security services exercise the most extreme brutality in suppressing protest – like Hama, Homs, Jisr al-Shughour and others.
5. Although fresh fatalities are cited daily, they never seem to affect the total figure of 1,400 reported as a constant in the West. By early July, the true death total had passed 2,000, according to our sources.
This figure includes 500 Assad loyalists, most of them members of the notorious Shabiha militia fielded by the ruling Alawites. The rising bloodshed among Sunni protesters and Alawite strong-arm units has caused civil strife to raise its head in some places.
An Arab leader who secretly visited Washington a few days ago is quoted by our sources as advising the administration that too many people have died for Assad to be able to put things back the way they were before the uprising. It's too late for that and the seeds of ethnic and religious warfare have been planted.

Assad still believes promises of reform can save his regime

Yet, with all the odds against him, Assad is still not ready to throw in the sponge. Next week, he plans to announce a series of reforms in the hope of saving his regime in the face of strong opposition from his family and top officials.
They are listed here by our intelligence sources:
– A promise to annul Section 8 of the Syrian constitution which guarantees his Baath Party exclusive one-party control of government in perpetuity
– General elections thrown open to opposition groups towards the end of the year or in early 2012.
– Elections for president towards the end of 2012, in which Bashar Assad will for the first time face rival contesters.

Even before those reforms were announced, the opposition dismissed them as a trick. Their leaders decided in discussions among themselves that Assad's promises of elections were worthless without international oversight.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email