Although 2,300 kilometers separates Libya from Syria, Muammar Qaddafi and Bashar Assad have this in common: Both Arab leaders look like surviving the revolts against them and neither is buckling under the pressures thrown at them by the United States and Europe – albeit in different forms and varying measures.
debkafile's military sources report that Sunday, May 29, there were solid signs that Assad and his army was recovering control of most parts of Syria, excepting only the Homs area of central Syria.
Elsewhere, after three months of battling the regime, the opposition is finding it harder to get protesters out on the streets for big rallies. Sunday, Syrian forces backed by tanks and heavy machine guns killed three civilians and wounded scores in the central towns of Talbiseh and Rastan and villages around Homs. Otherwise, most Syrian cities were calm.
This achievement is largely the result of the Syrian president's iron-fisted crackdown on protest followed by a ruthless purge of opponents to the regime in one area after another. But four more factors played their part:
1. The affluent middle class living in Syria's biggest towns, Damascus and Aleppo, stood aside from the uprising.
2. Likewise the Druze community which obeyed its leaders to stay out of it on orders coming from the Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.
3. Syria's Christians who are the backbone of the country's business community actively supported the Syrian ruler.
4. More than 100 Iranian and Hizballah officers placed their active experience in crushing opponents at Assad's disposal. They brought with them a whole range of manpower and equipment for breaking up demonstrations against which the popular demonstrators were helpless.
Large military units have occupied the southern region of Horan and its capital Daraa, where the uprising first flared, and where a million people live under a reign of terror. Outbreaks in the suburbs of Damascus have been crushed and the port cities of Tartous and Latakia have gone back to normal.
While the protest movement has not been completely extinguished and may continue to raise its head for some time, President Assad has undeniably regained control of his country.
Outside the Middle East, in Washington and Moscow, debkafile's sources report word going round that President Barak Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev Friday, May 27, came to an reciprocal understanding on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Deauville about the fate of the Syrian and Libyan rulers.
Obama is reported to have promised Medvedev to let Assad finish off the uprising against him without too much pressure from the US and the West. In return, the Russian president undertook to help the US draw the Libyan war to a close by means of an effort to bring about Muammar Qaddafi's exit from power – in a word, the two big powers traded Qaddafi for Assad.
According to our sources, neither the US nor Russia sees anyone in the Libyan rebel political or military leadership capable of taking over the reins of power in Tripoli. It is therefore assumed that a member of the Qaddafi clan will be chosen as Libya's interim ruler.
Obama and Medvedev also quietly agreed, those sources say, that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, despite their excessive involvement in the Libyan war, were wasting their time because they had no chance of making Qaddafi leave.
According to the information the Russian president offered Obama, NATO attacks had not disabled a single one of Qaddafi's five brigades. Obama confirmed this from his own sources.