Thursday, April 14, 2011

First panic in Assad regime: High Syrian officials evacuate families

Damascus was alive with rumors Thursday, April 14 that President Bashar Assad and his family were preparing to flee to Saudi Arabia. They were, sparked by the discovery that several high-ranking Syrian officials and army officers were evacuating their families from the capital to Persian Gulf emirates.

US intelligence officials also disclosed that Iran was secretly helping Assad crack down on his own people, providing gear to suppress crowds and assistance in blocking and monitoring protesters' Internet and cell phones.

Those officials did not refer to the Iran-backed Hizballah's active aid in the government crackdown. However, as the anti-government demonstrations pervade dozens of Syrian towns, even the second largest Aleppo, Assad is relying for survival less on the army and police and increasingly on the 10,000-strong armed Shabbiha gangs drawn from the Assad tribe of the minority Alawite community and trained in urban combat by Hizballah and Iran. In normal times, the Shabbiha are regularly employed by the Iran-Hizballah arms and drug smuggling rings.
debkafile's sources report increasing signs of desperation at the center of the Assad regime. One was a new allegation claiming that the Saad Hariri, who was ousted as Lebanese prime minister by Hizballah, was deploying armed gangs in Syrian cities to increase the bloodshed by shooting at anti-Assad protesters and security forces alike. Hariri makes an improbable scapegoat; he has neither the ability nor manpower to operate on any scale in Syria.

But the Syrian ruler is clearly at his wits' end for means to stem the onrushing threat to his regime after live ammunition failed to deter the protesters and halt the spread of their uprising.