Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rumors Rampant That Assad's On The Run

Everything is on rumor at the moment. No one seems to have seen Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad in the past few days, particularly since the attacks began in Damascus proper and especially after the bombing that took out his defense ministers yesterday.

The silence is fueling rumors of his whereabouts and whether he's still in control of the government. However, considering that there were a series of proclamations announcing the replacements to those who were killed in yesterday's audacious bombing of security officials, including the defense minister and his deputy (one of Assad's brothers-in-law), it appears that he's still running the show.
The fact that Assad made no public statement about such a devastating attack quickly fueled rumors that the president himself had been injured or killed. It was also unclear where his wife and children were after the bombing.

One Syrian opposition activist claimed in an interview with Al Arabiya television network that the presidential jet had left the Damascus airport Wednesday for Latakia, echoing a flurry of online claims by activists that Assad had been injured and sent to the Mediterranean port city.

However, Syrian state media reported that Assad had issued two decrees after the Wednesday attack, appointing Gen. Fahd Jassem Freij as defense minister and deputy commander-in-chief of the army.
There are rumors that he's out of Damascus and running things from one of his palaces in Latakia (an Alawite majority town on the coast), and there are rumors that his presidential jet has taken off to points unknown, though it appears that the destination was Latakia.

None of the reports can be substantiated though he's clearly unsure of his personal safety so he's on the move and doesn't know who he can trust. So, there's a measure of safety in the silence/ambiguity.

Yesterday's events have once again raised questions of a post-Assad Syria, and the US is beginning to consider that possibility, including consulting with Israel and other countries.

All this comes as Syrian forces continue attacking Damascus from the air and with artillery.
The army shelled its own capital from the surrounding mountains as night fell on Wednesday. Government troops, having vowed retaliation for the assassination, fired machine guns into the city from helicopters.

Rebels, massed in several neighborhoods, are armed mostly with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

Activist videos posted on the Internet showed bloodied bodies lying in the street.

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