Thursday, July 19, 2012

End of the Beginning in Syria

Unraveling is the word that pops to mind as events progress in Syria.  The civil war may take a sudden turn toward an end game.
Confirmed dead from the rebel assault on the security offices in Damascus are Assef Shawkat, Assad's brother-in-law and the deputy head of the armed forces and Assad’s his closest security adviser, Dawoud Rajha, the Minister of Defence and the government’s senior Christian official and Hassan Turkmani, the crisis management chief.  Other senior officials were wounded and now rumours are out and about that Assad also was wounded and is in Latakia – a convenient spot if Russia wants to pick him up by boat.  His wife, Asma al-Assad, is rumoured to be in Russia already.
If Assad’s wife has indeed fled to Russia, the Kremlin is going to need to re-calibrate its foreign policy fast for once.  The Kremlin is notorious for its reactive foreign affairs - which does not function well in situations like this.  Thinking ahead and incorporating possible black swans in its plans has never been a strong point in Moscow.
Of course, all the reports may well be wrong. Assad may hold on. But the vehemence with which the Syrian Information Minister Umran al-Zuabi, vowed that those behind the attack would be held accountable even if they were outside the country tends to support the rumours.  Of course, by adding that the bombing was orchestrated by combined Turkish, Qatari, Saudi Arabian and Israeli intelligence, removes a good deal of credibility from his remarks if only because this would be the strangest cast of conspirators in the long, bloody history of the Middle East.

One interesting question is what did the Hamas leadership see months ago when they hastily vacated Damascus and Syria? This is, of course, the region where historically “writing on the wall” originated. Then there is Hezbollah in Lebanon who will be in a difficult position, to say the least, as they lose both their arms depot in Syria and the arms route to Iran if Assad heads for a village in Russia with the added annoyance now of having to deal with Salafists within Lebanon who are fiercely (an understatement) conservative, destructive and dangerous.
Finally, will Russia go to Plan C soon (see previous post).

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