[Marxism] Six pointers to Assad's fall

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 5 07:44:30 MST 2012


Six pointers to Assad's fall

Each day's news brings more reasons to believe the Assad regime's fall 
cannot be far away. Viewed individually these signs may not in 
themselves spell doom for the regime but collectively they do.

1. Withdrawal of UN and diplomatic personnel: The UN announced yesterday 
that it has cancelled all missions to Syria from abroad and suspended 
its activities inside the country. All non-essential staff are to be 
withdrawn because of the "prevailing security situation". The European 
Union, which has a diplomatic office in Damascus, also said it will cut 
back activities " to a minimum level due to the current security 
conditions". In effect, the UN and EU are now only a step away from 
ordering a complete evacuation.

2. Jihad Makdissi flees: The foreign ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, 
has fled Syria and yesterday was reported to have arrived in London. 
This may not be as big a loss as some of the earlier defections and 
assassinations but it does tell us how someone who was privy to a lot of 
regime information now views the situation.

Whether Makdissi actually has a political quarrel with the regime is 
unclear but the Washington Post, citing a friend of Makdissi,
says he is "taking a break from the pressure of being the official face 
of the government in the media while having no security protection for 
himself or his family".

If we take this at face value and assume he has not fallen out with 
Assad, it's a message of no confidence in the regime's once-feared 
security apparatus.

3. Damascus airport: A capital city without a functioning airport isn't 
really a capital city any more. Syrian officials insist the airport is 
still open, but to what extent it may be operating is a different 
matter. Travel to and from the airport is dangerous and very few of the 
few remaining scheduled flights appear to be arriving or leaving. 
Egyptair announced yesterday that it was resuming flights but then 
changed its mind.

4. Internet shutdown: Last week's two-day shutdown of the internet and 
mobile phones was widely seen as a deliberate move by the regime – and a 
sign of desperation, if not panic. Many recalled that a similar tactic 
had been tried by the Mubarak regime in Egypt shortly before its fall.

Syrian officials blamed technical problems for the shutdown. Even if 
that were true, the length of time taken to fix it would be a further 
sign of the regime's declining capabilities.

5. US reviewing its options: A report in the New York Times on Saturday 
said the US is "considering deeper intervention to help push President 
Bashar al-Assad from power".

There are several ways of interpreting this story. One is that US fears 
it won't have much influence in a post-Assad Syria:

     “The administration has figured out that if they don’t start doing 
something, the war will be over and they won’t have any influence over 
the combat forces on the ground,” said Jeffrey White, a former Defense 
Intelligence Agency intelligence officer and specialist on the Syria 
military. “They may have some influence with various political groups 
and factions, but they won’t have influence with the fighters, and the 
fighters will control the territory.”

Another interpretation is that the US, since it doesn't really have any 
new ideas about what to do, is simply making noises to step up the 
psychological pressure on Assad at what it sees as a critical moment in 
the conflict.

Either way, the subtext is very clear: Washington's calculations are now 
predicated on an expectation that Assad will soon be gone..

6. Chemical weapons: Considering that Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons 
of mass destruction provided the excuse for war in Iraq, it's natural 
that people should be wary of Obama's latest statements about Syrian 
chemical weapons. But there is an important difference: Syria has never 
denied having chemical weapons and has indirectly admitted possessing 
them – courtesy of Jihad Makdissi who, when he was still foreign 
ministry spokesman, said they "will never be used unless Syria faces 
external aggression".

"All of these types of weapons," he said, "are in storage and under 
security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces".

Even among Assad's opponents there is a general belief that he is 
unlikely to use chemical weapons except as a last resort. If the US has 
really detected signs of "potential" preparation for use, it would mean 
the Assad regime is actively thinking about the end-game.

Alternatively, it's possible the US has merely detected the movement of 
some chemicals by the regime in order to keep them from falling into the 
wrong hands. But even that would be a very bad sign.

Back in July, Makdissi assured everyone that the chemical weapons were 
being carefully guarded. Indeed, it's reasonable to assume that chemical 
weapons would have been among the Syrian military's most 
heavily-protected equipment.

If they are having to be moved now, it's yet another sign that places 
once considered by the regime as ultra-secure are secure no longer.

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