Mike Pompeo reportedly conducted secret telephone conversations with Syrian General Intelligence Director (GID) General Ali Mamlouk in February. The Pompeo-Mamlouk call would represent the highest-level communication between the two governments in years. It also is surprising given the widespread allegations of Mamlouk’s culpability in human rights atrocities in Syria’s civil war. Mamlouk has been subject to U.S. sanctions since 2011.
The CIA declined to comment.
The visit of General Ali Mamluk, head of Syria’s National Security Bureau, to Saudi Arabia late July 2015 was reportedly engineered by Russia, and the Syrian intelligence chief flew in a Russian jet for talks with Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince and defense minister. By a royal decree, Saudi Arabia has relieved Muhammad bin Nayef as crown prince, replacing him with Mohammad bin Salman June 18 2017.
[April 7 2017 Cruise missile target status of forces ]
Shayrat AB Shayrat
7 Squadron MiG-25
675 Squadron MiG-23
677 Squadron Su-22
685 Squadron Su-22
[January 19 2016 Turkey allowing U.S. Airstrikes from Incirlik
F-15 fighter jet glides in for a landing in front of Adana’s main mosque March 7, 2003 at Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey.
Turkey has agreed to allow U.S. planes to launch air strikes against Islamic State militants from the U.S. air base at Incirlik, close to the Syrian border, U.S. defense officials said on July 24.
[ January 19 Iranian Guard Gen Allah-Dadi killed in Syria, Al-Nusra Front claims hit, Israeli helicopter strike suspected]
Abu Azzam Al-Idlibi, a member of Al-Nusra Front, said: “The killing of Jihad Imad Mughniyeh in an ambush at Jaroud, Syria, will be the end of the Persian project, God willing.”
Al-Idlibi challenged Hezbollah to release the pictures of its fighters and officers, tweeting: “From now and within the next two days, if the corpses of the Hezbollah leaders are released, then we can say they were targeted by the Israelis. Yet, if these pictures are not released, then this proves that they were killed by the mujahideen.”
[September 24 Assad uses poison gas as Coalition bombs Syria]
Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad wrested back a rebel-held industrial area near Damascus after months of clashes, the Adra industrial zone, after opposition forces accused them of using chemical explosives on September 24. Footage of the wounded from the incident, in which six people were killed, showed men jerking uncontrollably and struggling to breathe before their bodies went limp. The footage, posted on social networks, appeared genuine and consistent with The Associated Press reporting of the event depicted. The town – Adra al-Omalia – is about 30km from central Damascus but far from parts of Syria where the United States has launched air strikes against fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
[April 28 Not in America’s interest to tamp down violence in Syria?]
The president could be seeking to intentionally prolong the war because it is bad for Iran and Russia.
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough is described as the administration official whose views on Syria were most closely aligned with the president’s. , McDonough reportedly “questioned how much it was in America’s interest to tamp down the violence in Syria.” He later suggested that “a fight in Syria between Hezbollah and al Qaeda would work to America’s advantage.”
President Obama’s answer to a question on Syria during a recent interview provides further insight into his calculus:
“I’m always darkly amused by this notion that somehow Iran has won in Syria. I mean, you hear sometimes people saying, ‘They’re winning in Syria.’ And you say, ‘This was their one friend in the Arab world, a member of the Arab League, and it is now in rubble.’ It’s bleeding them because they’re having to send in billions of dollars. Their key proxy, Hezbollah, which had a very comfortable and powerful perch in Lebanon, now finds itself attacked by Sunni extremists. This isn’t good for Iran. They’re losing as much as anybody. The Russians find their one friend in the region in rubble and delegitimized.”
The Syrian opposition has agreed to a government request for a list of detainees held by armed rebel groups. Syrian government delegates, at peace talks in Geneva, have agreed to allow women and children to immediately leave a besieged district in the central city of Homs.
Top Syrian government officials say that an aid convoy is ready to enter the city of Homs after rival delegations meeting in Geneva agreed on the need for humanitarian access to conflict areas.
Bouthaina Shabaan, President Bashar al-Assad’s media and political adviser, made the remarks on January 26, the third day of peace talks in the Swiss city.
Anas Al-Abdah is Chairman of the Movement for Justice and Development in Syria. He was born in Damascus in 1967 and grew up there before leaving for Jordan in 1980 to study for a BSC in Geology at Yarmouk University. He moved to the UK in 1989 to continue a post-graduate degree in Geo-physics at Newcastle University.
Wikileaks cables have revealed US State Department funding of Barada TV. There may be a closeness of the Movement for Justice and Development in Syria, Barada TV and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights by virtue of the high level administrative & family links at the level of the al-Abdeh brothers.
[November 1 2013]
November 1, 2013, 7:58 am. Turkey was behind the October 30 attack in Latakia, Syria, which targeted “missiles and related equipment” meant for Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. The Lebanese report cited Israeli officials who allegedly claimed the attack came in response to the June 2012 interception of a Turkish jet, which Syrian forces shot down. The pilots were subsequently killed. The report could not be independently confirmed.
July 16, 2013 11:13, Israel used a Turkish military base to launch one of its recent airstrikes against Syria from the sea, a reliable source told RT. Israel has been under scrutiny since last week, when it was reported to be responsible for a July 5 depot attack in Latakia. Turkish armed forces have begun to establish a new base on the top of Kel Mountain, adjacent to the Syrian coastal city of Latakia.
People see the terrible things that President Assad (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) has done with the use of artillery and, as we’ve seen, with the use of chemical weapons.
But they also know now there are, I’m afraid, elements within the Syrian opposition that are extreme — linked to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups — and who are also committing atrocities. So, this situation has become more complicated.
As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tries to engage the West, he will have to contend with the hard-liners, including Suleimani and his comrades. “Suleimani is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today,” John Maguire, a former C.I.A. officer in Iraq, told me, “and no one’s ever heard of him.”
In the chaotic days after the attacks of September 11th, Ryan Crocker, then a senior State Department official, flew discreetly to Geneva to meet a group of Iranian diplomats. “I’d fly out on a Friday and then back on Sunday, so nobody in the office knew where I’d been,” Crocker told me. “We’d stay up all night in those meetings.” It seemed clear to Crocker that the Iranians were answering to Suleimani, whom they referred to as “Haji Qassem,” and that they were eager to help the United States destroy their mutual enemy, the Taliban. Although the United States and Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1980, after American diplomats in Tehran were taken hostage, Crocker wasn’t surprised to find that Suleimani was flexible. “You don’t live through eight years of brutal war without being pretty pragmatic,” he said. Sometimes Suleimani passed messages to Crocker, but he avoided putting anything in writing.
The good will didn’t last. In January, 2002, Crocker, who was by then the deputy chief of the American Embassy in Kabul, was awakened one night by aides, who told him that President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union Address, had named Iran as part of an “Axis of Evil.” Like many senior diplomats, Crocker was caught off guard. He saw the negotiator the next day at the U.N. compound in Kabul, and he was furious. “You completely damaged me,” Crocker recalled him saying. “Suleimani is in a tearing rage. He feels compromised.” The negotiator told Crocker that, at great political risk, Suleimani had been contemplating a complete reëvaluation of the United States, saying, “Maybe it’s time to rethink our relationship with the Americans.” The Axis of Evil speech brought the meetings to an end. Reformers inside the government, who had advocated a rapprochement with the United States, were put on the defensive. Recalling that time, Crocker shook his head. “We were just that close,” he said. “One word in one speech changed history.”
July 11, 2013. As political unrest continues in post-coup Egypt, USS San Antonio, amphibious assault ship, has moved to the coast there.
August 31, 2013 The USS San Antonio, an amphibious ship with several hundred US Marines on board, was positioned near five US destroyers armed with cruise missiles.
San Antonio’s passage into the Mediterranean was long-planned, but officials thought it prudent to keep the ship in the eastern Mediterranean near the destroyers given the current situation.
“It’s been kept there as a precaution,” one said.
What are the options? First, to recognize that the situation could be made much worse. Major western military intervention would do that.
The League of
the Arab world on August 27 blamed the Syrian government for a chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people last week, but declined to back a retaliatory military strike, leaving President Obama without the broad regional support he had for his last military intervention in the Middle East, in Libya in 2011.
Warplanes and military transporters have begun arriving at Britain’s Akrotiri airbase on Cyprus, less than 100 miles from the Syrian coast, in a sign of increasing preparations for a military strike against the Assad regime in Syria.
Two commercial pilots who regularly fly from Larnaca on Monday told the Guardian that they had seen C-130 transport planes from their cockpit windows as well as small formations of fighter jets on their radar screens, which they believe had flown from Europe.
Residents near the British airfield, a sovereign base since 1960, also say activity there has been much higher than normal over the past 48 hours.
Meeting in Amman Jordan today, The summit will be led by General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, and his Jordanian counterpart. It will take place little more than 100 miles from Damascus, where an apparent chemical weapons attack killed hundreds of civilians last week.
Top generals from Germany, Canada, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are also expected to attend a meeting which will coincide with UN weapons experts visiting the site of the attack in an attempt to determine what happened and who was behind it.
The key players in any possible strike against Syria, widely considered to be the US, Britain and France, already have substantial military muscle in the area.
Kuwait’s permanent delegate at the Arab League Ambassador Jamal Al- Ghunaim welcomed the League call to hold an emergency session at level of permanent delegates, on August 27, to discuss prospective steps at the international level to deal with the dangerous developments in Syria.
5:45 pm edt 8/26/13: An official from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said NATO allies were closely monitoring developments in Syria and the wider region and “will keep the situation under constant review, as appropriate.”
The French foreign minister says there will be a “proportionate response” to the alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb that he blamed on Syria’s government.
“It will be negotiated in coming days,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio on Monday. Fabius acknowledged that the lack of a U.N. blessing was problematic. “All the options are open. The only option that I can’t imagine would be to do nothing.”
“It’s a step too far to say we’re drawing up legal justifications for an action, given that the president hasn’t made a decision,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations. “But Kosovo, of course, is a precedent of something that is perhaps similar.”
Kosovo is an obvious precedent for Mr. Obama because, as in Syria, civilians were killed and Russia had longstanding ties to the government authorities accused of the abuses. In 1999, President Bill Clinton used the endorsement of NATO and the rationale of protecting a vulnerable population to justify 78 days of airstrikes.
A senior administration official said the Kosovo precedent was one of many subjects discussed in continuing White House meetings on the crisis in Syria. Officials are also debating whether a military strike would have unintended consequences, destabilize neighbors like Lebanon, or lead to even greater flows of refugees into Jordan, Turkey and Egypt.
In the Mediterranean, the Navy’s regional commander postponed a scheduled port call in Naples, Italy, for a destroyer so that the ship would remain with a second destroyer in striking distance of Syria during the crisis. Pentagon officials said the decision did not reflect any specific orders from Washington, but both destroyers had on board Tomahawk cruise missiles, long-range weapons that probably would be among the first launched against targets in Syria should the president decide to take military action.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “The only possible explanation of what we have been able to see is that it was a chemical attack and clearly many, many hundreds of people have been killed, some of the estimates are well over 1,000.
“There is no other plausible explanation for casualties so intense in such a small area on this scale.
“I know some people in the world would like to say this is some kind of conspiracy brought about by the opposition in Syria – I think the chances of that are vanishingly small. He noted that subsequent air attacks by the Syrian Air Force might have destroyed evidence of the perpetrator, likely the Syrian army.
Syria’s moderate opposition earlier pointed out that if the rebels had had access to chemical weapons they would have been tempted to use them much earlier against Assad’s military bases.The Syrian army unit in the thick of the campaign for the suburbs is the 4th Armoured Division of the Republican Guards, led by Mr Assad’s brother, Maher. Chemical weapons were said to have been issued to that unit in 2012.
Rockets with chemical agents hit the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar during fierce pre-dawn bombardment.
150 bodies were counted in Hammouriya, 100 in Kfar Batna, 67 in Saqba, 61 in Douma, 76 in Mouadamiya and 40 in Irbib, all suburbs of Damascus.
Minority groups — primarily Alawites who traditionally supported the government of President Bashar al-Assad, himself an Alawite. But other groups, including the Kurds, Druze and Christians, who together with the Alawites make up a quarter of Syria’s 22.5 million people, are also seen as supportive of the secular government and therefore viewed as enemies. This week, some 30,000 Syrian Kurds fled into Iraq’s Kurdistan region saying they were being killed by jihadists targeting the minority.
What appears to be a deliberate campaign against these groups poses serious dilemmas for the Obama administration and European nations such as Britain and France, which have planned to support the pro-democracy forces by providing advanced weaponry. They are already grappling with the problem of how to ensure that those arms will not end up in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra — the al-Qaida-affiliated group that emerged as the most effective and capable of the rebel forces — and the increasing attacks on minorities by insurgents creates an additional quandary.
Although many members of Syria’s ethnic and sectarian groups are in fact secular, approximately three-quarters of the population is nominally comprised of Sunni Muslims. Alawites make up about 11 percent, Christians of various denominations — including Greek Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Maronite, Syrian Catholic, Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic — another 10 percent, and the Druze and Shiite contribute 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively, to the total.
At the start of Syria’s troubles in March 2011 many members of the minorities, including Alawites, supported the calls for reform and more political freedoms. But as the conflict intensified, opposition ranks became more and more dominated by radicalized members of Syria’s Sunni majority and jihadist fighters who started joining the rebellion in large numbers.
Today, the conflict has morphed into a full-fledged civil war in which more than 100,000 people have perished. The most capable units on the rebel side — those spearheading the fight against the secular government — are composed of Islamist militants, many of whom fought U.S. forces in Iraq. The militants now accuse Christians of being supporters of Assad’s regime.
“They have threatened to cut our throats,” said Bahri, a Roman Catholic. “I love my country, but if it means having the terrorists slaughter me, my wife and our two boys, I’d rather escape to Lebanon.”
Mideast powers opposed to President Bashar Assad have dramatically stepped up weapons supplies to Syrian rebels in coordination with the U.S. in preparation for a push on the capital of Damascus,
Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are headed by Sunni Muslim governments seeking the fall of Assad’s regime, which is dominated by Syria’s Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The Arab powers in particular are hoping Assad’s departure would break the influence in the region of predominantly Shiite Iran and its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon. Croatian arms began appearing only recently in Syria. They include M60 recoilless guns, M79 Osa rocket launchers, and RBG-6 grenade launchers, which all are powerful anti-tank weapons. Griffiths said the Croatian arms are a “major game changer.” He said they are “portable, but pack a much bigger explosive punch.”
An official in Washington said the possibility of the transfers from the Balkans was broached in the summer of 2012, when a senior Croatian official visited Washington and suggested to American officials that Croatia had many weapons available should anyone be interested in moving them to Syria’s rebels.
At the time, the rebels were advancing slowly in parts of the country, but were struggling to maintain momentum amid weapons and ammunition shortages.
Washington was not interested then, the official said, though at the same time, there were already signs of limited Arab and other foreign military assistance. The Saudis appear to have stepped up.
Anatoly Isaikin, the director of Rosoboronexport, said Russia sees no need to stop its arms trade with Syria as the trade isn’t prohibited by the United Nations. Isaikin said his company has a contract with Syria to deliver Yak-130 combat jets but so far has not shipped any. He didn’t explain why no deliveries have been made, but the reason could be the aircraft’s long production cycle.
Russian media reported last year that the contract was for 36 Yak-130s worth $550 million. The Yak-130 is a combat training jet that can also carry modern weapons for ground attack missions.
Isaikin didn’t mention any other weapons systems which his company has delivered to Syria or is planning to ship in the future.
But the Russian media said they included Pantsyr-S1 and Buk-M2 air defense systems and Bastion anti-ship missile system. The latter is armed with supersonic Yakhont cruise missiles that have a range of up to 300 kilometres and provide a strong deterrent against an attack from the sea.
Thaer al-Waqqas, northern commander of al-Farouq Brigades, one of Syria’s largest rebel groups, was shot dead at a rebel-held position in the town of Sermin, a few kilometres from Turkey, early on Wednesday morning.
Al-Waqqas had been suspected of involvement in the killing four months ago of Firas al-Absi, a main jihadist leader in al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, which Washington dubbed a terrorist organization in December.
If Assad fled to Tartus, he could seek protection from the Russian naval base there, or flee aboard a Russian vessel. Russia announced that it was sending a small flotilla toward Tartus, possibly to evacuate its citizens who live in Syria.
But Tartus residents said that the Russian families from the naval base had already left. The officers do not leave the base, which is little more than an enclosure near the civilian port.
There is a precedent for a rump state. France, the colonial power in the region in the early 20th century, fostered an Alawite state from 1920 to 1936, but it eventually merged with what became an independent Syria.
Opposition military commanders vow to block any such attempt.
After months of skirmishes with the army on the capital’s outskirts, rebel groups said they were attempting to storm strongholds of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, including security buildings from where the regime side of the civil war has been run and the presidential palace.
Turkey has asked NATO to deploy 18 to 20 Patriot missiles along its border with Syria, but the Alliance only offered about eight to 10 missiles,
NATO countries that have advanced PAC-3 model Patriot missiles, namely Germany, the Netherlands and the United States. The decision is likely to come in early December on whether NATO should deploy surface-to-air missiles in Turkey, ostensibly to protect that country from Syrian missiles that could carry chemical weapons. Patriot missile system would not be “for use beyond the Turkish border.”
But some strategists and administration officials believe that Syrian Air Force pilots might fear how else the missile batteries could be used. If so, they could be intimidated from bombing the northern Syrian border towns where the rebels control considerable territory. A NATO survey team is in Turkey, examining possible sites for the batteries. The Obama administration, hoping that the conflict in Syria has reached a turning point, is considering deeper intervention to help push President Bashar al-Assad from power
While no decisions have been made, the administration is considering several alternatives, including directly providing arms to some opposition fighters.
Mortar shells fired by anti-government rebels targeted but missed the presidential palace, which sits on a hill overlooking the capital and fell November 7 in a Damascus district that is home to many members of President Bashar Assad’s Alawite sect. Mazzeh Jabal 86 is home to many officers in the Syrian military and security services, which are dominated by members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect, considered an offshoot of the Shiite branch of Islam. Syria’s Alawite minority is largely supportive of Assad in the face of the Sunni-led uprising against his family’s more than 40 years of autocratic rule.
Islamist groups Ahfad al-Rasoul and Ansar al-Islam said in a joint statement they planted bombs in a compound belonging to State Security in the area.
Syrian state television said a “terrorist explosion” had injured two people. Witnesses said soldiers in full combat gear were deployed in the area and all roads leading to Umayyad Square were cut.
[October 7]a car bomb has exploded near police headquarters in central Damascus.
Residents reported hearing a huge explosion that rattled the Syrian capital just after sundown October 7.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government policy, told The Associated Press the blast was caused by a car bomb that blew up in the Fahameh district near police headquarters.
[Sept.28[Two loud explosions struck the General Staff Command Building (Hay’at al Arkan) in the Umayad Square in central Damascus.
[August 28]An administration official speaking on condition of anonymitysaid that the White House is still resisting any move that would see U.S. military assets used inside Syria, such as through a no-fly zone, but opponents of intervention are slowly losing ground.
“It’s a Donilon call at the end of the day,” the official said, referring to National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, who is leading a complicated interagency policy process on the Syria crisis. “There’s not enthusiasm but there are differences of opinion about a no-fly zone,” the official said. “There is no rush to do it.”
[August 16]Reuters says:”We heard that he (Maher al-Assad) lost one of his legs during the explosion, but don’t know any more,”
A Gulf source confirmed the report: “He lost one of his legs. The news is true.”
A Saudi daily insisted August 15 it had held an interview with Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, following denials from Moscow that he had ever spoken to the newspaper. A recording was posted on the al-Watan website. Further explosions in Damascus on the 15th.
Al-Watan posted online a recording which it said proved the interview, in which Bogdanov purportedly said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s influential brother Maher lost both his legs in a bomb attack, had indeed taken place.
Al Jazeera Arabic reported on July 18 a number of explosions at 4th Brigade headquarters which protects the presidential palace which is headed by Maher al-Assad, the brother of Bashar al-Assad. [see below].
On August 14, the Saudi newspaper al Watan that Maher had lost both legs in such an explosion and was in critical condition, according to a telephone interview with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. more
U.S. State Department and Turkey’s Foreign Ministry have set up a working group to respond to the crisis in Syria as conditions there deteriorate. They said the group will coordinate military, intelligence and political responses to the potential fallout in the case of a chemical attack, which would result in medical emergencies and a likely rise in the number of refugees fleeing Syria.
[August 2]Under provisions of a presidential finding, the United States is collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.
Along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct vital military and communications support to Assad’s opponents.
This “nerve center” is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence. Incirlik Air Base (Turkish: İncirlik Hava Üssü) (ICAO: LTAG) is a United States Air Force installation, located near İncirlik, Turkey. Incirlik Air Base is located 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) east of Adana, Turkey, the fifth largest city in the country, and is 56 kilometers (35 miles) inland from the Mediterranean Sea. The United States Air Force and the Turkish Air Force are the primary users of the air base, although it is also used by the British Royal Air Force.
Incirlik Air Base is the home of the 10th Air Wing (Ana Jet Üs or AJÜ) of the 2nd Air Force Command (Hava Kuvvet Komutanlığı) of the Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri). Other wings of this command are located in Merzifon (LTAP), Malatya/Erhaç (LTAT) and Diyarbakır (LTCC).
Incirlik Air Base has a U.S. Air Force complement of about five thousand airmen, with several hundred airmen from the British Royal Air Force and Turkish Air Force also present, as of late 2002. The primary unit stationed at Incirlik Air Base is the 39th Air Base Wing (39 ABW) of the U.S. Air Force. Incirlik Air Base has one 3,048 m (10,000 ft)-long main runway and one 2,740 m (8,990 ft)-long secondary runway, both located among about 57 Hardened Aircraft Shelters.
A Turkish newspaper claims that the U.S. deployed four Predator drones at the Incirlik Air Base in late October, Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorization, an action not previously reported, could not be determined. Bradley Strawser, assistant professor of philosophy at Monterey’s Naval Postgraduate School, argues the US is not only entitled but morally obliged to use drones.
“It’s all upside. There’s no downside. Both ethically and normatively, there’s a tremendous value,” he says. “You’re not risking the pilot. The pilot is safe. And all the empirical evidence shows that drones tend to be more accurate. We need to shift the burden of the argument to the other side. Why not do this? The positive reasons are overwhelming at this point. This is the future of all air warfare. At least for the US.”
[July 31]”I think it’s important when Assad leaves – and he will leave – to try to preserve stability in that country. And the best way to preserve that kind of stability is to maintain as much of the military, the police, as you can, along with the security forces, and hope that they will transition to a democratic form of government. That’s a key,”
Assad promoted the Sunni chief of his general intelligence directorate to security council head, Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk. The head of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Abdel-Fattah Qudsiyeh, was made the security council’s deputy head. A senior military intelligence general was elevated to take his place. The head of another of the four intelligence agencies, the Political Security Department — Maj. Gen. Deeb Zeitoun, also a Sunni — was moved over to lead the General Intelligence Directorate, replacing Mamlouk.
To fill in Zeitoun’s now empty position, Assad brought in loyalist Maj. Gen. Rostom Ghazali from his job as security chief for the Damascus suburbs, which has been a battleground with rebels for months. Previously, as Syria’s intelligence chief in Lebanon, Ghazali was a key enforcer of Syria’s then-direct domination over its smaller neighbor, which lasted for 29 years until 2005.
The head of the fourth intelligence agency, air force intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Jamil Hassan, apparently remained in his post.
The Assads have spent more than four decades safeguarding the building blocks of political authoritarianism and co-opting a broad coalition of social, political, sectarian and ethnic communities. The Alawis, a minority sect within Islam, are the spearhead and power base, but other interest groups play a critical legitimising role, such as Christians, Druzes, and an important segment of the Sunni merchant class and the new bourgeoisie, all of whom benefited from Assad’s neoliberal economic policies. The durability of the Assad rule has depended not only on coercion and hegemony but also on co-option and the balancing of various interest and communal groups.
Alawite flight has led to speculation that Assad himself and his inner circle might fall back on their ancestral mountain fortress if they felt power was slipping from them. That speculation was heightened when opposition sources said he had moved to the coastal city of Latakia last week after the stunning bomb attack which killed four of his top officials.
The reports were not confirmed and Israel later said Assad, who has launched a sustained counter-offensive against rebel fighters in Damascus, was still in the capital with his family.
But many suspect it remains Assad’s option of last resort.
“It wouldn’t be surprising if there were some contingency plans – a safe house, fortifying the presidential palace in Latakia, moving artillery to the mountains,” said Shashank Joshi of the RUSI defense think tank in London.
[July 20]A day after a bombing killed his brother-in-law and two other key military figures, Assad was in the coastal city of Latakia, opposition sources and a Western diplomat told Reuters.
“Our information is that he is at his palace in Latakia and that he may have been there for days,” said a senior opposition figure, who declined to be named, according to Reuters.
Latakia province is home to several towns inhabited by members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect.
Reuters Wed Jul 18, 2012 1:04pm EDT The bomber, said by a security source to be a bodyguard assigned to Assad’s inner circle, struck a meeting in central Damascus attended by ministers and senior security officials as battles raged within sight of the nearby presidential palace.
Syrian General Hassan Turkmani, a former defense minister and senior military official, died of wounds sustained in a bomb attack in Damascus, Hezbollah’s al-Manar television and a security source said. Hafez Makhlouf, head of the investigations at the Syrian Intelligence Agency died in the Damascus explosion, Al Arabiya reported citing Syrian sources.
Al Jazeera Arabic reports that a number of explosions at 4th Brigade headquarters which protects the presidential palace which is headed by Maher al-Assad, the brother of Bashar al-Assad.
Gen Rajiha has been defence minister for less than a year, serving previously as chief of staff, and is on a US blacklist for his role in the suppression of dissent. Syrian Defence Minister Daoud Rajiha has been killed in bomb explosion inside the national security headquarters in the capital Damascus. Opposition sources say bombers got away.
The deputy head of the armed forces, President Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, and Hisham Ikhtiar, the head of general security have died. Mohammad Shaar held a number of security positions, including Chief of the military police in Aleppo and was the Director of Sednaya prison. He was commander of the military police prior to being appointed Minister of the Interior.
Other senior officials meeting inside at the time are said to be critically hurt.
He is believed to be an Orthodox Christian – a rarity in the Alawite-dominated Syrian military and government.
Two magnetic bombs exploded in two judges’ cars in the open-air car park, while a third was in the process of being defused in car park of the Palace of Justice in the al-Marjeh district of Damascus on June 28,.
Gunmen have attacked a Syrian pro-government TV channel, killing seven people, state media say.
Journalists and security guards died in the attack on Ikhbariya TV south of Damascus.
The district targeted is said to house a military intelligence complex, including the headquarters, 10 floors high, of the counter-terrorism operation for the military security in Syria, involved in President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on the ongoing pro-democracy protests.
Next to it was another military security intelligence building which was also destroyed in the attack.
The building is part of a broader military compound the Palestine Branch, one of the most feared among the more than 20 secret police organisations in the country, correspondents say.
It was originally set up in the 1950s to interrogate suspected Israeli spies, and then to deal with the 500,000 Palestinian refugees in the country, which it still does. But over the past decade, it has evolved into the country’s counter-terrorism unit, and is infamous for interrogations and torture,