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CIA Expects Downfall of Syria after Hafez al-Assad | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The CIA sign is seen onstage before the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama to speak following a meeting with his National Security Council at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Washington- CIA interest in the future of Syria began long time ago – the agency analysts expected stability to collapse once the late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad is gone, which turned out to be true.

Several reports and analyses were made on Syria, according to the recently declassified files by CIA, tackling the number of heart attacks and colds that Assad suffered from, determining the figures qualified to come after and discussing the fate of the country in case Sunnites complaints over marginalization increased.

One of the earliest documents in the CIA files on Syria is a memorandum that was submitted to decision makers in Washington on 7 November 1978. The memorandum mentions that Assad has remained in presidency the longest period since Syria’s independence in 1964.

CIA analysts were right when they attributed maintaining stability in Syria to the personality of Assad because he remained a president until his death in 2000.

Causes behind CIA Concerns

The memorandum summarized the concerns analysts have towards Syria in three points:

First: Although Assad achieved compulsive stability on the short-term but the regime will not be safe on the long-run due to the oppression that the majority senses.

Second: The Syrian intervention in Lebanon was not welcomed by Syrians or even Lebanese. Thirty months after the intervention, it seemed like it will remain forever and will continue to exasperate their resources without any forthcoming solution.

Third: Complaints among Syrian army soldiers started to surface, though it has not become a rebel or a demand to withdraw. Still, it is not an assuring indicator to Assad and might lead to a division in the Syrian army.

Scenarios of a Change in Syria

Memorandum writers mentioned prime possibilities of a political change in Syria. The first possibility is that Assad will die due to his health condition or an assassination. The second possibility is the downfall of the regime by a national rebel or military coup.

Assad Departure, Israel Loss

The intelligence memorandum concluded that the departure of Assad will have a negative influence not on the local Syrian level only but also regionally and internationally including the peace process in the Middle East, especially if the departure of Assad occurred surprisingly without the existence of a qualified alternative.