The Syrian ruler has ordered his military chiefs to get set to launch their biggest operation they have ever staged to once and for all destroy the protest movement bedeviling his regime for six months, debkafile's military sources report exclusively. All units are deployed around the protest centers on full preparedness for coordinated strikes in the coming days and all leaves cancelled.
Assad's preparations entail three additional steps:
1. He has filled the vacant position of deputy chief of staff with Gen. Ali Ayub, commander of the 1st Formation made up of the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th Divisions, deployed until now on the Golan Heights and Mt. Hermon borders with Israel. Its personnel have been left out of Assad's military campaign against the opposition until now.
2. Those divisions, made up mainly or Sunni conscripts, have begun pulling back from their positions on the Syrian-Israeli border and are heading north.
For the first time, therefore, Assad feels he can safely send Sunni troops into battle against protesters and is not afraid to leave his borders undefended against an Israeli attack.
3. The Syrian president holds Erdogan responsible for authorizing the Turkish army and his National Intelligence Organization-MIT to set up a state-of-the-art command center for the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood at Jabal al-Zawiya in the Syrian province of Idlib near the Turkey border. He believes it is working with a parallel command center on the Turkish side which directs the steps of Syrian protest tacticians against the Assad regime.
To settle its score with Ankara, Damascus this week stepped up military raids on towns and villages near the Turkish border, seeking out for destruction the Turkish MIT command center ahead of Assad's final massive onslaught on opposition centers.
4. Thousands of protesters turned out in Aleppo Tuesday, Sept. 6 for the first time in the anti-Assad uprising. Syria's second largest city and its financial hub has therefore been included in Assad's targets for his major offensive.
The Syrian ruler has also added Turkey's Erdogan government to his list of enemies. Tuesday, debkafile discloses, Assad secretly ordered without warning the total suspension of the Syrian-Turkish free trade treaty. Neither partner has revealed this decision, which our sources estimate will cost Turkey a trading loss of $5 billion per annum.
Assad's move against Turkey had important implications for the balance of his confrontation with countrywide protest. The suspension of free trade with Turkey has hit Aleppo's merchants in their pockets since most of their business came from trade with Turkey and finally brought them out against the regime.
It is therefore hard to fathom Assad's motivation for striking Turkey at the risk of potentially raising Syria's financial center against him when, for six months Aleppo's trading and religious leaders took care to keep its five million inhabitants out of domestic strife.
One theory explains the Syrian ruler's action by the discovery of weapons and funds for the protesters hidden in containers of Turkish goods delivered to Aleppo.