Assad masses loyal troops in Damascus after he was warned of a military coup
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 30, 2012, 9:38 PM (GMT+02:00) President Bashar Assad supported by his brother and cousin
According to exclusive reports reaching DEBKAfile, President Bashar Assad Sunday, Jan. 30, pulled in the Syrian Republican Guard and the 4th armored divisions commanded by his brother Maher Assad from the northern rebel centers and over to Damascus. He ordered them into battle positions in the capital for the first time in the ten month uprising after receiving an intelligence tipoff that western powers had won over one of the armored division commanders posted in the capital and persuaded him to stage a coup d'etat to topple him.
The renegade general, whose identity is unknown, was reported to be planning to take advantage of the absence of the most trusted regime troops in trouble spots across the country to lead 300 tanks into the capital and seize power.
The conspirators were planning to make their move on the night of Monday Jan. 30 or early Tuesday Jan. 31, just before the UN Security Council was to convene in New York and air plans for him to step down. The conspirators would have presented its members with the accomplished fact of Assad's overthrow by the military.
The information passed to Assad, apparently from an external source, did not name the division commander who accepted this role from Western hands. If it turns out to be true, the scheme would strongly recall the US-led NATO-Qatari-Jordanian operation for the Libyan rebels to seize power in Libya by taking Tripoli by storm in the third week of August 2011.
Forewarned, the Syrian ruler is making every effort to ward off the threatened coup.
DEBKAfile's military sources report that, aside from the Republican Guard and 4th division which Assad recalled to the capital, present there too are the 1st, 3rd and 9th armored divisions.
The fight rebel forces put up at the gates of Damascus Monday night was perceived by the Assad regime as part of the coup conspiracy. Western and military sources described the combat as a search, arrest and kill operation to wipe out the last vestiges of resistance around the capital, rather than battles.
Monday night, the White House issued a statement saying the UN Security Council must not let the Syrian President Assad continue the violence.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to address the Council meeting Tuesday. She has urged the forum to act before the violence in Syria spills over and destabilizes its neighbors. Moscow has made it very clear in recent weeks that it will on no account let the Assad regime go the way of Qaddafi. Russia is adamant about vetoing the Security Council motion the US and European powers are gathering Tuesday in New York to table in support of the Arab League transition plan for a national unity government to rise in Damascus within two months and implement Assad's handover of power to vice president Farouk a-Shara. A Russian bid to bring the opponents to the negotiating table failed after the main Syrian opposition party demanded that Assad step down first.At least 27 people were killed Monday in the central city of Homs
– which was heavily shelled again - the northern province of Idlib and southern province of Daraa, where the revolt against Assad began in mid-March. Another 41 deaths were reported Sunday.The Syrian regime stepped up the violence in the days before the Security Council session to quell resistance and demonstrate its grip on the country
DEBKAfile reported earlier Monday, Jan. 30:
Ten months after the Syrian people launched an uprising against its ruler, Bashar Assad, if not yet safe in the saddle, has recovered the bulk of his army's support and his grip on most parts of the country.
Protesters have mostly been pushed into tight corners in the flashpoint towns and villages, especially in the north, hemmed in by troops and security forces loyal to the president.
Monday, Jan. 30, Syrian forces were close to purging the suburbs and villages around Damascus of rebel fighters. The operation began Sunday with 2,000 troops backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers. Six soldiers were killed when their vehicle blew up on a roadside bomb near Sahnaya, east of the capital.
The rebel Free Syrian Army and opposition groups continue to report heavy fighting in the Damascus area, and especially the international airport where they claim to have prevented Assad's wife and children from fleeing the country. However, military watchers do not confirm either the fighting or the Assad family's attempted flight.While both sides spin propaganda, the extreme hyperbole of opposition claims attests to their hard straits and the Syrian president's success in weathering their efforts and the huge sacrifices in blood paid by the people (estimated at 8,000 dead and tens of thousands injured) to oust him
.Having got rid of the Arab League monitoring mission, which gave up in despair of halting the savage bloodbath
, Assad will shrug off the Arab-Western backed motion put before the UN Security Council Tuesday, Jan. 30, calling on him to step down and hand power to his vice president Farouk a-Shara. He will treat it as yet another failed effort by the combined Arab-Western effort to topple his regime.
The conflict is not over. More ups and downs may still be to come and there are signs of sectarian war evolving. But for now, Assad's survival is of crucial relevance in seven Middle East arenas:
1. The Tehran-Damascus-Hizballah bloc is strengthened
, joined most recently by Iraq;
2. Iran chalks up a first-class strategic achievement for counteracting the US and the Saudi-led Gulf Arab emirates'
presentation of the Islamic regime as seriously weighed down under by the crushing burden of international sanctions imposed to halt its drive for a nuclear bomb.
3. Hizballah has won a chance to recover from the steep slide of its fortunes in Lebanon
. The Pro-Iranian Lebanese Shiite group stands to regain the self-assurance which ebbed during Assad's hard times against massive dissidence, re-consolidate its bonds with Tehran, Damascus and Baghdad and rebuild its political clout in Beirut.
4. It is hard to calculate the enormous extent of the damage Saudi Arabia and Turkey have suffered from their colossal failure in Syria
. The Palestinians too have not emerged unscathed.Saudi Arabia, Qatar and their security agencies, which invested huge sums in the Syrian rebellion's removal of the Assad regime, were trounced by Syria's security and intelligence services and the resources Iran provided to keep Bashar Assad afloat.The Arab League, which for the first time tried its hand at intervening in an Arab uprising by sending observers into Syrian trouble spots to cut down the violence, watched impotently as those observers ran for their lives. Assad for his part first accepted than ignored the League's peace plan
Turkey, too, after indicating its military would step across the border to support the Syrian resistance and giving the FSA bases of operation, backed off for the sake of staying on good terms with Iran.
5. Russia and China have gained credibility in the Middle East and points against the United States by standing up for Assad
and pledging their veto votes against any strong UN Security Council motions against him. Moscow's arms sales and naval support for the Assad regime and China's new military and economic accords with Persian Gulf emirates have had the effect of pushing the United States from center stage of the Arab Revolt
, held in the Egyptian and Libyan revolutions, to the sidelines of Middle East action.
6. The Syrian ruler has confounded predictions by Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak that he can't last more than a few weeks
. His survival and the cohesion of his armed forces have contributed to the tightening of the Iranian military noose around Israel.
The Syrian army was in sustained operation for almost a year without breaking and suffered only marginal defections. It is still in working shape with valuable experience under its belt in rapid deployment between battlefronts. Syria, Iran and Hizballah have streamlined the cooperation among their armies and their intelligence arms.
7. The Palestinian rivals, Fatah and Hamas, have again put the brakes on the on-again, off-again reconciliation
after it was galvanized by Hamas' decision to create some distance between Iran and the embattled Syrian regime. Seeing Assad still in place, Hamas' Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh will visit Tehran this week and Meshaal may delay his departure from the Syrian capital.http://www.debka.com/article/21693/