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MURAT YETKİN

murat.yetkin@hurriyet.com.tr

MURAT YETKİN > Break up in Damascus

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According to Turkish sources in a position to see reports filed to Ankara from the field, up until a few days ago the majority of Syrian people living in big cities like Damascus or Aleppo have remained silent, because they believed that Bashar al-Assad and his regime were invincible. But since the attack that targeted a high-level security meeting in Damascus and claimed the lives of Syria2s defense minister and his deputy (who was also married to Bashar al-Assad’s sister Bushra), as well as head of intelligence and his deputy, and wounded a number of people, including the interior minister, the scene has begun to change.

“Our people in the field are observing that the urban majority, which has preferred to remain neutral so far, have begun to support the opposition groups,” one Turkish official who had served in Syria in years past said. “We think the Syrian people have begun to perceive that the administration is breaking up.”

Another security meeting was held in Ankara on Friday about the situation in Syria; sources told Hürriyet Daiy News that it was not only about the situation in Syria after the attack that delivered such a hard blow to the Baathist regime in Damascus, but also about the security situation along the 900-kilometer Turkish border with the country. So far more that 43,000 Syrians have fled to Turkey, and as of yesterday out of eight main border gates, only one, the Yayladağ gate near the Syria Mediterranean port of Latikia, remained under the control of Syrian government forces. The commander of the Turkish 2nd Army has been inspecting the border gates under the control of the armed opposition groups. They pose a potential threat to Turkey, since some of them are controlled by Kurdish groups who could be in contact with Kurdish armed groups in Turkey. The situation at Syria’s border gates with Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan is reportedly similar.

The obvious question is: Why are Syrian government forces not defending the border gates and other strategic points against the rebels? The answer the same Turkish official gives is “Because they cannot.” According to information from Ankara, the Syrian security forces are in disarray, and their defenses -- which are now concentrated in certain districts -- far from acting strategically but rather acting out of “desperation, to defend their very existence,” with more officers and now soldiers fleeing from the Syrian military.

With the al-Assad regime’s fatigue visible, the future of al-Assad himself is under discussion by the international community. It was surprising to read the words of the Russian ambassador to Paris, who said on Friday that al-Assad might agree to leave his job, but in an orderly manner, right after a Russian (and Chinese) veto in Thursday’s United Nations vote for more measures on Syria. It seems that the Russians, who are in a position to observe what is happening in Syria, too, have come to the conclusion that the Syrian regime as it is now is not sustainable anymore.

July/21/2012

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