Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

A broken down toilet | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The explosions that have taken place in different Syrian cities – always in the same manner and always on the day when observers are present, whether they are from the Arab League or the United Nations (UN) – include many striking details that make the official explanation from the Bashar al-Assad regime unconvincing and implausible. Charred remains have been found inside the explosive-rigged cars of bodies with their hands bound, some of which have been identified as detainees who were arrested in the peaceful demonstrations undertaken by Syrian rebels in different cities. This is not forgetting the “immediate” media coverage of the explosions, which is surprising in a country where a camera or a reporter cannot move except under very thorough security supervision.

Then came the latest additions to explain the explosions, namely the statement issued by a new and unknown fundamentalist Salafi jihadist group on the scene, going by the name of “al-Nasra”. It was interesting that this group claimed responsibility for the explosions after the successive statements of Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari, and prior to him Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, both repeating that the bombings taking place in Syria bore the hallmarks of the al-Qaeda terrorist group. Immediately after the “al-Nasra” group launched its statement, the Syrian media rushed to link the group to al-Qaeda.

This reminds me of the same method used by the Syrian intelligence services as a proactive response to the fallout from the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. At the time, the intelligence services released a video tape of a person with a fundamentalist appearance, using the same vocabulary as favored by the media in events such as this. The person later became known as “Abu Adass”, and he claimed responsibility for the criminal operation. Of course, over time, people knew this was only a test balloon from the Syrians to divert attention from them and their involvement in the assassination operation, as it is clear that they are only party capable of carrying out such an operation, whilst they are also its prime beneficiaries.

The Damascus bombings may also reveal another important matter, namely the lack of harmony, and perhaps divergence, between the Syrian intelligence services. Hafez al-Assad established a security regime par excellence, where the ministries, the Baathist party, the army, the people, or any other institutions or entities had no value, all power rested with the security intelligence system. The branches of the apparatus were as follows: general intelligence, military intelligence, air force intelligence and so on, each one an independent body, and every security operation needed to be passed by each branch and individually approved. It was well known that competition was intense between the leaders of these apparatuses, and Hafez al-Assad exploited this, with the sole loser always being the innocent Syrian people.

In the era of Bashar al-Assad, the situation has not changed greatly, although the spread of the President’s relatives and close associates into these apparatuses has made a substantial difference. Maher al-Assad, Assef Shawkat and the Makhlouf family all have significant influence and even greater ambitions. This means that these apparatus may be employed to secure immediate, personal gains in light of the growing talk of Russia’s willingness and acceptance today of the idea of Bashar al-Assad stepping down from the presidential post, but the regime remaining in power with an alternative leader sourced internally. Here it is possible to explain the wave of explosions as an attempt to convince the world, particularly the Russians, that the head of the regime must go, but that there are those inside who are capable of taking over. This means that the intelligence services, which were designed on the basis of competition in order to appease President al-Assad, today have become a dangerous tool that could contribute to his rapid fall from power.

No one believes the regime’s account of the bombings, just as no one believed its explanation of the revolution, which has entered its 15th month, and shows no signs of abating. The demonstrations will continue until the end, in light of a regime that has been exposed and stripped bare; revealing itself on a daily basis continually until it transformed into a joke, nothing more. The Syrian intelligence services were described once as the most precise and efficient entity managing the affairs of the country, but it seems that they have transformed into a broken down toilet, and nothing more!