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What’s al-Assad thinking now? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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With the ongoing battles in the heart of the Syrian capital, the Syrian crisis may be carving out a different path with surprising results. Now the fires of the Syrian revolution are close to engulfing the tyrant of Damascus himself! The news that filtered through yesterday shows that al-Assad’s grip is now shaking, and that he has not only lost control of large parts of Syria but perhaps even Damascus.

Yesterday, the Israeli Director of Military Intelligence, Major General Aviv Kochavi, told the Knesset that al-Assad had transferred his troops from the Golan Heights to Damascus and other internal conflict areas. Likewise, the British Foreign Secretary, speaking from Jordan, said: “The situation is so grave and so unpredictable that I don’t think any option should be ruled out in the future”, whilst the French and Americans issued warnings of al-Assad transferring chemical weapons to various sites within Syria, in addition to Baghdad calling on Iraqi nationals to leave! All these statements, events and information suggest that the situation in Syria is moving towards a new turning point, which may involve many surprises, and so the logical question is: How is al-Assad’s thinking now?

In order to answer this question we must be aware of a vital matter, namely that those who have met al-Assad recently say that the man lives in his own world and is completely detached from reality. This is evidenced by his last three interviews, showing that he does not care what is going on around him and does not sense any danger. This is also what Syria’s dissident ambassador to Iraq confirmed, when he said in a recent interview with the Sunday Telegraph that al-Assad was detached from reality. However the latest developments, and what is happening on the ground in Syria and Damascus in particular, in terms of battles and genuine, successive divisions, suggest that al-Assad has re-evaluated his position and we are now discovering the true order of his priorities. The withdrawal of al-Assad’s forces from the Golan Heights means that the real enemy for the Syrian President and his regime is not Israel, but rather the Syrians. This is despite the fact that the tyrant of Damascus, and his allies such as Hassan Nasrallah, still talk about the resistance and confronting “the Israeli enemy”, which tells us that al-Assad will not drown alone, but with all his allies, Nasrallah included.

Al-Assad’s thought process now is confined purely to carrying out more death and destruction, as all the political solutions are vanishing in front of him and there is no room for more tricks and procrastination. The Syrian President’s options to escape are also limited; he can either flee to Tehran or meet the same fate as Gaddafi, as it is no longer possible to secure the same terms as Ali Abdullah Saleh, Ben Ali or even Mubarak!

Therefore, al-Assad is left with Gaddafi’s fate, or a sudden regime collapse, his escape, and then perhaps a military coup. This is a long overdue development that is now becoming increasingly likely with the continued fighting in Damascus. The fact that al-Assad is bringing more troops from the Golan Heights means that he has become a prisoner reliant on his forces, rather than their leader as he was in the past, especially with the increasing pace of military defections.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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