Graffiti slogans and leaflets calling for the overthrow of president Bashar Assad appeared this week at centrally-located road junctions and city squares for the first time in modern Syria’s 35-year old history.
Such overt signs of dissent were unheard in the time of President Hafez Assad and since he was succeeded by his son – until now. For Bashar the worst news is that the slogans were not smeared on the walls of Damascus, the capital, but at his Allawite clan’s strongholds in the outlying towns of Latakiya, Banias and Tartus. The Allawite community is the backbone of the regime and army.
In Damascus and Aleppo, the Reform Party of Syria (RPS) posted hundreds of large posters portraying the exiled Farid Ghadry and members of his executive. He was shown standing against a large Syrian flag and labeled “the benevolent son of Syria.”
Syrian police quickly tore down the posters, but not before they were circulated on the Internet. In the day of Bashar’s father, Syrian tank guns killed 20,000 people to quell protest in the Muslim Brotherhood district of Hama.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Middle East sources reveal that the public marks of dissent blossoming in Syria are the direct outcome of a covert meeting of Syrian opposition leaders in Berlin earlier this month. Our intelligence sources report that the meeting was organized, funded and secured by the Germany BND external intelligence service. Angela Merkel became the first German chancellor to join the United States and France in a direct action campaign to oust Assad.
We can report the main resolutions carried at the meeting:
1. To foment a civil disobedience campaign in Syria. To bring this about, the participants voted to add two new members to the executive committee of the Syrian National Salvation Front. Both live in Syria and were introduced under the aliases of Mohammed Said and Dr. Ali Othman to protect them from Syrian security service spies.
This pair was responsible for the displays of graffiti and posters.
Operating in top gear from European capitals
2. A delegation was dispatched to Washington with a strong request to refrain from taking direct action in Syria, certainly not on the Iraqi format, because the opposition has enough strength to topple the Assad regime on its own. They point out that their front brings together the key opposition forces in Syria such as Kurds, Sunni Muslims, Muslim Brethren and even some elements of the Allawi sect, opposed to the president.
3. For the first time in decades, the government begins to look as though it fears a storm in the offing. One indication is the way Assad is holding off a military response to the Israeli strike against the Syrian nuclear facility on Sept. 6. Damascus-watchers do not believe a clear decision was taken to exercise restraint, but that the heads of the regime are in no state for resolute action. They predict that this hesitancy and impotence will soon spread to other facets of governance in Damascus.
4. The former Syria vice president Abd al-Halim Khaddam was credited with the failure of a single Arab state to express its solidarity with Damascus after the Israeli attack. He went from capital to capital to persuade their governments to stay on the sidelines.
The meeting decided to cooperate closely with the Syrian tycoon Rifat Assad, Bashar’s uncle, who is giving the Syrian opposition in exile the use of his satellite television station ANN which beams opposition messages directly to Syrian viewers from London, and his popular Internet radio station.
Our sources report too that Rifat has told his son Zoray Assad and grandson Somer Assad to drop their businesses and concentrate on working for the Syrian opposition, which now runs branches in most important European capitals.
Khaddam works out of Brussels and liaises with European Union institutions and the NATO command, demonstrating that he is no American stooge. Rifat runs opposition affairs from Marbella, Spain, Zoray operates in Paris where he has good connections in French government and intelligence circles, whle the London end is held down by Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadr Al-Din Baynouni and Rifat’s grandson Somer.