Monday, July 23, 2012

The Government

This report does not reflect an NCF point of view. Our intention is to convey the attitude of the Syrian establishment. The following report does not reflect the opinions of the Next Century Foundation:

Fighting in Damascus continues today, with the city totally locked down and all roads into the capital blocked. Rebel forces have seized buildings downtown and are also fighting in a number of suburbs, some close to the City Centre.

For the first time in a number of weeks we have managed to put together a perspective from an Alawite source close to the inner circles of government. We also have an establishment view, and a view from a conspiracy theorist from Dera’a. Plus a timeline. We start with the view from someone close to the circles of power in Syria. You may not like it but you should read it.

Note also that the Syrian government may not view things with quite the same perspective you do. For instance many inner circle Syrians believe that key elements in the West privately back Bashar al Assad, however irrational that may seem. If you want to understand why look at this wikileaks link (you will have to open the attachment) – or this article from a former member of the US intelligence services.

What the Syrian leadership is thinking:

  • This is from a private NCF source close to the ruling family in Syria. This is not the perspective of the outer circles of government. We have not edited the following so it jumps a little from subject to subject.
“Russia will never abandon Syria, even if China does.  And even countries like France are becoming more rational in their approach. The Syrian government may not be as confident as we are but we are very confident. We have the support of the army, and a solid percentage of the population, and of Russia. Why should we not feel confident?
“If you guys had really wanted regime change in Syria, you could have had it. But you have strengthened Bashar not weakened him. There aren’t many Muslim Brotherhood in Syria but the West goes chasing after the Muslim Brotherhood. You chose to back the Muslim Brotherhood when almost half of Syria are minorities. And there are more Alawites than you think. The Alawites are spread everywhere. Many Syrians Alawite families keep their Alawite identity secret because historically our sect has been persecuted. If you want a high profile example, Mustafa Tlas (father of the prominent defector) comes from an Alawite family – Shiite from the Mutawa, originally from Baalbeck, they moved to Rastan in Homs. But you all assume he’s Sunni.
“We are confident we are putting down the rebellion. We are winning. The opposition was created in the West. There is no chaos in Syria. You have in mind what the Western media campaign is telling you. The people in charge here in Syria are the Syrian Army, not the FSA. The FSA spend most of their time in hiding. The Syrian Army is hunting the FSA.
“But of course things here are not normal. Here in Damascus we are dealing with Salafists. The FSA don’t control them. They are an embarrassment to the FSA.
“As for the Shabiha, they are not all Alawite. Their leaders are Alawite. Some near Aleppo are Baathist. Some are non-Salafist Sunnis. The Shabiha don’t need money. The government did not give them weapons in the beginning. Now the State gives them weapons but only a limited supply of ammunition – we don’t want chaos.
“The upper class in Syria don’t go to the army because the salaries are too low.
“This is not a civil war. In Lebanon before it was a civil war. In a civil war children can’t go to school. But everything still functions here.
“These assassinations are not so important. If the Government of Syria looses two or three lives that does not change anything. There are other commanders who will carry on the cause.  
“We will keep the rebels trapped in Damascus. Now they will have to fight, surrender or die.
“Stupid these rumours the President is in Latakia. You think he’s fled? Don’t be so ridiculous. He would lose control if he fled.”
What the Syrian establishment is saying:

“The stupid rumour about Bashar al-Assad’s whereabouts is ridiculous. Members of the Free Syrian Army militant group reported that al-Assad is in hiding in Latakia. Latakia is a seaport city in Northern Syria. It represents the Alawite capital of the country. But I beg to differ with the FSA’s statement. I am in direct contact with al-Assad, he (Bashar al-Assad) is in the presidential palace in Damascus with his staff and is directing the destiny of the country.
“The Syrian president has described the revolt as ‘an act of terrorism’. The Syrian Government organised this blitz of the Syrian capital, Damascus, by annihilating the opposition.
“With all the killing that has taken place, responsibility directly falls upon Arab governments.
“The high ranked political figures who died on Wednesday were martyrs for the glory and dignity of Syria. The Armed Forces will never be deflected from their objective by such a cowardly attack. These are dark days for Syria.”
A conspiracy theorist’s viewpoint:

The killings on Thursday were not by the FSA, they were assassinations of plotters who’d been planning a palace coup. The reason Shawkat and Rajahah were killed was they were planning to overthrow Bashar. Assef Shawkat was in the Republican Guard but was not trusted. He was never liked. Assef Shawkat and Daoud Rajahah were the only two that could stage a coup. I don’t believe the opposition could breach the security of the upper echelon. The group who claims responsibility (Liwa al Islam) are state agents. There was no footage on Syrian State TV of the aftermath of the attack. They were supposed to have been hit at a meeting of the Emergency Crisis Group. It is impossible. Assef was always careful, always an outsider. But he himself wouldn’t dare try for a coup without Bushra pushing him. Why would they have gone into that building? Why would they have met in Rowdah next to the US Ambassador’s house? Also the place is very small. In any case those two were hardliners. They would have blocked Bashar if he wanted to negotiate. Now he can do anything he pleases. He has total power and no one stands in his way.
What the Government is doing:


12 July 2012
Clashes broke out between government forces and rebels in the village of Tremseh, in the Hama province. Reports on the numbers of civilian casualties are conflicting but NCF calculates 133 civilian dead, 37 rebel fighters killed, and 3 Syrian Army soldiers killed at Tremseh 
13 July 2012
The UN monitoring mission into the village of Tremseh confirmed that evidence proved heavy weapons, including helicopters were used. This is a breach of President Assad’s previous assurance that his forces would adhere to the peace plan forwarded by Kofi Annan. However, the Syrian government insisted that it was a military operation against rebels. 
15 July 2012
Rebel fighters entered Damascus city, in what some described as a ‘turning point’ in the uprising. In response to the emerging clashes all over the city, the Syrian army are shelling residential parts of Damascus to target rebel forces.
16 July 2012
Fighting continued in Damascus. Government forces sent armoured vehicles into central Damascus in‘the biggest military deployment in the capital since the beginning of the uprising’. There were clashes in various neighbourhoods of the city, including Midan, Kafr Souseh, Zahera and Tadoman.  
17 July 2012
Rebels of the FSA claimed to have shot down an army helicopter over Damascus as fighting continued in the capital city. The head of Israeli army intelligence reportedly stated that Syrian forces from the Golan Heights were being deployed to help defend the capital.
18 July 2012
Defence Minister Dawoud Rajiha, Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat and General Hassan Turkmani were killed in an attack at the National Security headquarters in Damascus. The Interior Minister and National Security Chief were injured. A jihadist group called Liwa Al-Islam (Islamic Brigade) claim to be responsible (The NCF source in the FSA stated that the “Islamic Brigade” was part of the FSA). Following this incident there of defections by conscripts in the army. A new minister of defence was appointed, General Fahd Jassem Al Freij. 
The government is said to have blocked all roads leading out of Damascus in an attempt to trap rebel groups in Damascus and limit their access to reinforcements and weapons. There has been some suggestion that the incidents both in Hama and Damascus are part of an offensive by the government to reverse gains by the rebels.
19 July 2012
Bashar Al Assad swore in the new defence minister General Fahd Jassem al-Frei, with television footage being shown of Assad for the first time since the bombing on Wednesday. This quelled rumours that Assad is in hiding.
 An NCF source said that Damascus has been surrounded by government security forces stopping rebels from going in or out of the capital. The government has been bombarding neighbourhoods in Damascus, using heavy weaponry, and tanks Damascus. A security source declared that the Syrian army would “finish the rebels off once and for all”.
FSA forces took control of border posts on the Iraq and Turkish borders (though these were later retaken by the government). Syrian forces continued fighting the FSA in Damascus neighbourhoods including: Mazzeh, Barzeh, Kafar Sousseh, Rukn Eddin, Sina’a, Midan, al-Hajar al-Asswad, and Bab Sreijeh.
20 July 2012
State television announced that Syrian military forces have ‘cleaned’ the Midan area of Damascus of ‘Terrorists’. This statement was released: ‘Our brave army forces have completely cleaned the area of Midan in Damascus of the remaining mercenary terrorists and have re-established security’.
Some estimate that as many as 30,000 Syrian refugees have fled the country in the last 48 hours seeking safety in neighbouring Lebanon.
Funeral processions took place for Defence Minister Dawoud Rajiha, Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat and General Hassan Turkmani. The Syrian president and his brother General Maher al-Assad assisted at the funerals. Syria's intelligence chief Hisham Bekhtyar has also died today after having succumbed to his wounds from the attack on July 18.


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