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The fearful in Damascus - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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When the Prime Minister of a regime defects approximately two months after his appointment, and information is leaked suggesting that he was negotiating to flee the country for some time prior to the decision to appoint him, then a question needs to be asked about the rest of the regime: Who is really in charge at a time when the pace of defections is increasing among staff and senior officials, and likewise we are witnessing internal infiltrations that have reached even the most important security strongholds, such as the bombing that occurred a few weeks ago killing prominent security leaders?

Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, and the regime’s resort to the security solution in order to confront the demonstrations that were peaceful at first, a question emerged in the face of the absurdity of this solution, which any sane person knew would lead to a dead end: Who is the decision maker, is it al-Assad himself or is he a pawn for others? The passing days and bloody developments in Syria, and the leaks emerging here and there, confirm that he is the primary authority, and that the influential inner circle linked by common, perhaps family interests is running the crisis, while everyone around it has woken up and begun jumping from a ship on the verge of sinking.

Perhaps the most accurate assessment of the defection of the Syrian Prime Minister, along with two ministers and military leaders, came from the German Foreign Minister who announced that the Syrian regime is eroding quickly. It is not known whether there are signs of other splits among senior officials such as the Defense Minister, as reported, but the course of events indicates that perhaps there are many who want to jump ship from within the regime and are waiting for the right moment or the right conditions. This may be linked to guaranteeing the safety of their families, as it is noticeable that many of the defectors have only done so after securing their families and leaving with them, fearing the wrath of the regime that has said it will strike the families of those who turn against it.

It is puzzling that the narrow group that runs the regime now, headed by President al-Assad himself, seems to be infected with a state of semi-blindness, and cannot see the reality that the ship is sinking. With the increasing frequency of defections among senior executive officials and military leaders, and the loss of large parts of Syrian territory outside its control, the Syrian regime has entered a stage like the final phase of Gaddafi’s rule in Libya. It may be that the case for those remaining in the regime in Syria is different to Gaddafi in terms of the presence of external supporters both regionally and internationally, but even those will abandon the regime at some point, or bargain over it when they feel it is no longer useful.

It is certain now that this narrow group is eroding day by day and becoming even smaller, and it is likely that there are a many frightened officials in Damascus who are preparing to jump from the ship provided that they can ensure their safety. These people should be encouraged to abandon the regime as soon as possible, because jumping will be futile after the ship has sunk. It is no longer possible to defend the regime after the signs of its collapse are looming, and its decision makers have passed the point of no return after all this bloodshed. Those thinking of defecting should leave the inner circle to its fate, instead of associating with the regime any longer.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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