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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

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Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Intelligence arrow Syria: Quieting Internal Rumbles with an Arrest - w/video
Syria: Quieting Internal Rumbles with an Arrest - w/video PDF Print E-mail
Written by STRATFOR   
Saturday, 12 April 2008

Bashar Assad (right) with his brother Maher (left) and brother-in-law Assef Shawkat (center) during President Hafez Assad's funeral (June 13, 2000). Bashar Assad's brother and brother-in-law are now suspected of involvement in the murder of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister, an opponent of the “Syrian order” in Lebanon (Photo: Khaled al-Hariri, Reuters)
Bashar Assad (right) with his brother Maher (left) and brother-in-law Assef Shawkat (center) during President Hafez Assad's funeral (June 13, 2000). Bashar Assad's brother and brother-in-law are now suspected of involvement in the murder of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister, an opponent of the “Syrian order” in Lebanon (Photo: Khaled al-Hariri, Reuters)

Summary
Syrian military intelligence chief Asef Shawkat has been placed under house arrest, according to Stratfor sources. Shawkat has been at the center of a power struggle that had the potential to destabilize the regime in Damascus. With him out of the way, Syria can now turn its focus to more pressing matters — such as a possible upcoming Israeli military action. 

Analysis
Syrian President Bashar al Assad has placed Syrian military intelligence chief Asef Shawkat under house arrest, Stratfor sources confirmed April 11. Former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam, who defected from the regime in late 2005 and has since been living in self-imposed exile in France, told Lebanon’s Al Mustaqbal news agency April 6 that Shawkat (who is al Assad’s brother-in-law) was banned from traveling and that he had been replaced by al Assad’s cousin, Brig. Gen. Hafez Makhlouf. Makhlouf will take Shawkat’s place in investigating the February assassination of top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah on Syrian soil.

Stratfor first reported on the internal rumblings within the al Assad regime in late February, when it was rumored that Shawkat was at the center of a Syrian conspiracy to eliminate Mughniyah. The allegations led al Assad to build a case for Shawkat’s removal. Stratfor sources revealed later that month that Shawkat had been replaced and that Hezbollah, which accuses Shawkat of playing a key role in the Mughniyah assassination, demanded that Syria interrogate him as a primary suspect.

Moving against Shawkat helps the al Assad regime reassert control internally, and enables Syria to take another big step in shoring up its alliance with Hezbollah and Iran as it continues to deflect allegations that Damascus was involved in the Mughniyah hit. Putting the Shawkat controversy to rest also frees up the regime to focus on the developing possibility of an Israeli military move.

 

Former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam - since defected to France, in exhile he tells the story of Asef Shawkat and the latest on The Syrian / Hariri File under a UN Chapter 7 Tribunal 

 

Shawkat, despite his bitter rivalry with key members of the al Assad regime, had developed a great deal of clout over the years within Syria’s intelligence establishment through the help of his wife, Bushra al Assad. Given his prominent rank, Stratfor raised the possibility that his removal could pose a serious threat to the stability of the regime.

So far, however, the al Assad house appears to be in order. Shawkat has been sidelined and is no longer in a position to cause an uproar within the government. Shawkat’s archrival, Maher al Assad — the president’s brother and head of the Republican Guard — reportedly was successful in isolating Shawkat from his base of support in the military intelligence apparatus. Maher was joined by Director-General of Intelligence Brig. Gen. Ali Mamluk and Director-General of Political Security Brig. Gen. Muhammad Manasra in removing Shawkat and his key aide, Ali Younis, from power.

The move represents a big political victory for Syria’s young president. Al Assad has now proven on several occasions that he has the ability to manage the internal rifts within his regime. The last notable uproar occurred following the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. After the assassination generated a massive wave of protest that eventually forced Syrian troops out of Lebanon, Khaddam and former Interior Minister Ghazi Kenaan collaborated in an attempt to topple the regime — which resulted in Khaddam fleeing the country and Kenaan mysteriously “committing suicide.” With this latest battle involving Shawkat behind him, al Assad can now focus on the bigger issues that lie ahead for the Syrian regime — namely, the mixed signals Israel is sending to Syria, Hezbollah and Iran through its military maneuvers.

Now that Israel has begun revisiting the airstrike it launched on an alleged Syrian nuclear site in September 2007, while at the same time making the case for war against Hezbollah, the Syrian regime cannot be certain it will be able to avoid a direct conflict with Israel this time around. Syria is well aware that the odds would be against it in a military confrontation with Israel Defense Forces, and Damascus needs to pursue a complex set of diplomatic maneuvers to safeguard its position. With the Shawkat controversy put away, Syria has gained a little breathing space to help it find its way through the current regional crisis.

http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/syria_quieting_internal_rumbles_arrest

By Stratfor. This Report Expresses the views of Stratfor

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of CRNews.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 12 April 2008 )
 
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