“…With the Syrian regime proving resistant to a quick collapse, and anti-Assad sentiment within the regime stifled by fear of victor’s justice, what’s Plan B?
It seems to be Send in the Clowns.
In other words, find an ex-regime figurehead who is at least superficially palatable to the Syrian populace and sufficiently obedient to the foreign coalition, and can also persuade the Assad regime that his first act will be to push a bill through the (presumably unrepresentative, hand-picked, and tractable) transitional legislature granting a graceful exit to Assad and amnesty to his associates (aside from some carefully-chosen scapegoats) from prosecution for their past crimes in the name of reconciliation….
The initial candidate for the exalted role of transition leader is Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, who fled Syria amid widespread huzzahs a few weeks ago.
Tlass has been literally grooming himself for his role as popular leader for months, growing out his military haircut into a heroic Byronic mane prior to his defection.
His photographic prop is a big cigar, presumably to reinforce the image of manly leadership,…He is also, apparently, France’s great hope for clout in Syria, as this priceless excerpt from the Christian Science Monitor reveals:
Now, Mustafa [his father] and Tlass’s sister, Nahed Ojjeh, are living in Paris, where Ms. Ojjeh is a prominent socialite who once dated a former French foreign minister….
However, Qatar appears comfortable with another high-level defector, one who also happens to be Sunni (as is Tlass), but was an important cog in the Assad machine and has hands-on experience with the nitty gritty of restoring order in a violent and dangerous set of circumstances.
The man is Nawaff al-Faris, formerly Syria’s ambassador to Iraq. According to an interlocutor communicating with the As’ad AbuKhalil’s Angry Arab blog, Ambassador Nawaff is quite a piece of work, having earned his bones with the Ba’ath regime as battalion commander during the legendary Hama massacre of 1982,….
The longer regime collapse is delayed, the greater the risk that important elements of the insurrection might slip the leash, start fighting with each other as well as against Assad, and contribute to the creation of a failed state where Syria used to be….
Bashar al-Assad is doing a pretty good job of staying in power and crushing the insurrection. The longer he is able to cling to power, the more shattered and divided Syria becomes – and the less useful it is to the West and the Gulf states as a proxy warrior in the battle with Shi’ite Iraq and Iran.”
….but in conclusion, Fisk will not miss an opportunity to quantify Bashar Assad’s ‘numbered days’.
“… How long would the President last, then? “Bashar will not run away from Damascus – this is rubbish in Western newspapers.” Then came the killer line. “A month or two, maybe”
DAMASCUS Fierce fighting raged in Syria’s largest city of Aleppo Wednesday as President Bashar Assad marshalled his forces, including dozens of tanks and fighter jets, to stamp out a rebel fight to …
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Syrian troops and rebels sent reinforcements to the intensifying battle in the second city Aleppo, as the US said fresh defections from the regime showed President Bashar al-Assad's "days are numbered".
When I was interviewed by the BBC last week about rebel advances in Damascus, I cautioned that putting some armed bands in some neighborhoods would not result in a revolution. Nor did even a big bombing of security officials. I said that that a significant proportion of the population of the capital would have to rise up in order for the regime to fall. The rising did not take place (people were still terrified, and thousands fled). In subsequent days, the Baath government riposted, taking back the downtown Midan and other areas, and not hesitating to use its massive firepower advantage, even if it meant high non-combantant casualties.
Then the rebels launched their Aleppo campaign, taking over whole neighborhoods of the country’s largest city, in the north. This advance was probably made possible in part because the regime had pulled troops to the capital to meet the challenge there. But now that Damascus has been largely regained, the government of Bashar al-Assad has turned its sights on Aleppo.
One Arabic report has it that that the al-Assad regime has removed hundreds of Sunni officers from responsibilities for safeguarding chemical weapons stores and commanding helicopter gunships. They are giving these sensitive responsibilities to officers from the minority Alawite Shiite community instead, which dominates the upper echelons of the Baath government and military.
The defection of the Tlass (Talas) family, formerly pillars of Sunni support for the regime, may have driven this change if it is true. Manaf Tlass surfaced Tuesday to call on Syrians to rise up against their government.
In a remarkable escalation, the regime on Tuesday and early Wednesday subjected Aleppo to bombing raids by MIGs.
The determination of a terrified and brutal minority regime to reassert itself is clear in the appointments made by President al-Assad to replace his assassinated officials. As Joshua Landis explains, they are all hawks.
On Tuesday evening into Wednesday, ground forces subjected the Tal district of Aleppo to heavy artillery bombardment. The 216th Mechanized Brigade directed fire on the district of 100,000 people about 5 miles north of Aleppo proper. Helicopter gunships were also deployed against the rebels.
Elsewhere in the north, there was back and forth fighting by rebels and regime loyalists in Deir al-Zor.
The Syrian regime is armed to the teeth, with 5,000 tanks, thousands of artillery pieces, and a significant air force. If it decides to commit these massive military resources to the fight with the rebels, it may well be able to crush them in the short term. But its problem is to retain the loyalty of enough of the population and the troops that stem from them to continue to operate the machinery of war against its own urban population.
Syrian pro-government forces launch a counter-attack after rebels seize parts of Aleppo, and a former Assad aide confirms he has defected.
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“… ”We have very purposely stayed away from contributing to the direct overthrow of the Assad regime,” Heydemann said. “Our project is called ‘the day after.’ There are other groups working on the day before.”
The project has been funded by the State Department, but also has received funding from the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as Dutch and Norwegian NGOs. USIP partnered with the German Institute of International Affairs, which is why all of the meetings have been held in Berlin.
The absence of Obama administration officials at these meetings, even as observers, was deliberate.
“This is a situation where too visible a U.S. role would have been deeply counterproductive. It would have given the Assad regime and elements of the opposition an excuse to delegitimize the process,” Heydemann said.
He also said that none of the groups that fall beyond the mainstream of the opposition have any connection to the project, although the participants assume that Islamist politics will be a significant part of any future Syrian political order….”