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A Hydra in Damascus

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US intelligence outfits such as the recently hacked-to-death Stratfor fear this could only profit Iran and Russia, both with complex networks inside Syria, and both keen on maintaining the current system, which suits their geopolitical interests.

It's enlightening to keep checking out what the Assad clan is up against internally. An internally led "transition" might lead to more power to some select Sunnis and perhaps a few Christians and Kurds -- but this won't have anything to do with the "revolution" the SNC fantasizes about. Structurally, things will remain more of less the same.

Among newly empowered Sunnis in a post-Assad set up, the key candidates are Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar; Army Chief of Staff Fahd Jasem al-Farij; the assistant regional secretary of the Baath Party, Muhammad Said Bukhaytan; and Republican Guard commander Manaf Tlas (who has indeed defected and is already in Paris [2]).

So far, though, defections have been mostly irrelevant, but one group of people should be watched closely. If any of them defects, the Assad clan may be in serious trouble. The group includes Jamil Hassan; Abdel-Fatah Qudsiyeh; Ali Mamlouk; and Muhammad Deeb Zaitoon. These are the directors of Syria's four intelligence agencies (yes, this is an ultra-hardcore police state). And then there's Hisham Bakhtiar -- the head of the National Security Council and top Assad intelligence adviser.

As it stands, Syria's ruling class still seems monolithic. They won't go down without extreme fighting. And the "alternative" is the Muslim Brotherhood and the SNC -- whose "revolutionary," not to say democratic, credentials are pitiful. Masses of civilians caught in the crossfire might even be appeased by a coup. That beats the prospect of being ruled by those dodgy "Friends of Syria" replacing Dr Evil with a "democratic" Mini-me.

1. Syrian Opposition Group Calls for Revolution, RIANOVOSTI, July 11, 2012
2. Manaf Tlas Defection Confirmed: His Statement from Paris, Syria Comment, July 6, 2012
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Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His regular column, "The Roving Eye," is widely read. He is an analyst for the online news channel Real News, the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and (more...)

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Asia Times Online has also published an article, b... by mhenriday on Thursday, Jul 12, 2012 at 2:46:16 PM