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Syrian defence ministers killed in a bomb attack
July 18, 2012 10:37 AM   Subscribe

BBC: Three men at the heart of President Assad's defence team have died in a suicide bombing, Syrian state TV says. NYT: Blast Kills Core Syrian Security Officials. Articles mention the attacker being rumored to be a bodyguard for the top security officials.

BBC: Profiles of the dead
Daoud Rajiha, defence minister
Asef Shawkat, deputy defence minister, brother-in-law to president Assad
Hassan Turkomani, assistant to the vice-president, former defence minister
Analysis: Turning point? (BBC)
posted by Anything (61 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
By the way – the opposition has claimed it was not a suicide bombing; the "suicide bombing" claim comes from Syrian state media.
posted by koeselitz at 10:46 AM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Noted in the headline, but, yes, deserves to be emphasized.
posted by Anything at 10:48 AM on July 18, 2012


"A spokesman for Liwa al-Islam confirmed the claim by telephone but denied that it was a suicide attack."Yes we did the attack, but there was no suicide bomber," said the man."
posted by koeselitz at 10:48 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, half-noted.
posted by Anything at 10:49 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah yes – missed that. Thanks for the great post, by the way, Anything.
posted by koeselitz at 10:49 AM on July 18, 2012


the opposition has claimed it was not a suicide bombing

There are also conflicting claims of responsibility, so I doubt we're getting close to the true details just yet.

Either way, this is not a good day for Assad.
posted by snottydick at 10:59 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't even know what to do about this sentence - It said in a statement on its Facebook page that it "targeted the cell called the crisis control room in the capital of Damascus". Why did it never occur to me that rebel forces in the Middle East would have Facebook pages?
posted by elizardbits at 10:59 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


So the conflict will escalate, killing more innocents as Assad entrenches himself even further to save his face along with the rest of himself.
posted by Renoroc at 11:01 AM on July 18, 2012


The interesting thing for me is who is supporting the rebels, and specifically on big ticket events like this. Because the intel for a strike like this could come from the opposition themselves, but is more likely to come from US signals intelligence or an Israeli intelligence asset.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:02 AM on July 18, 2012


I'm guessing this will make it more difficult for Assad to entrench himself. Any allies he has are now going to be very paranoid of their own safety as long as they stick by him.
posted by Anything at 11:03 AM on July 18, 2012


Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of boys, eh?

I guess escalating until the Red Cross declares the conflict is a civil war has consequences for the leadership; this isn't terrorism now and indeed (since they were on the military planning committee) probably isn't even against the Geneva Convention.
posted by jaduncan at 11:03 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the killer indeed was a bodyguard, I would suppose there isn't much outside intelligence needed?
posted by Anything at 11:07 AM on July 18, 2012


(Unless of course the bodyguard was specifically planted for a job like this to begin with. I'll tone done my amateur speculation now..)
posted by Anything at 11:11 AM on July 18, 2012


Assad may attempt to entrench himself... and regime officials that formerly considered themselves safe may start to re-evaluate their prospects. Threaten the personal safety of the high level functionaries and it may speed Assad's ouster.
posted by rocketpup at 11:31 AM on July 18, 2012


At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that situation in Syria "is rapidly spinning out of control" and warned Mr. Assad’s government to safeguard its large stockpile of chemical weapons.

Well, that's not good.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:45 AM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why did it never occur to me that rebel forces in the Middle East would have Facebook pages?

elizardbits, if you thought that was interesting you might enjoy some of the links in this post.
posted by Aizkolari at 11:47 AM on July 18, 2012


Champagne Flows While Syria Burns: A country at war with itself. Bombs and civilian massacres. Yet, in Damascus, the music plays on.

This piece was written just a week ago, but today's bombing may change things.
posted by homunculus at 12:17 PM on July 18, 2012


Why did it never occur to me that rebel forces in the Middle East would have Facebook pages?

Syrian Rebels Use YouTube, Facebook for Weapons Training
posted by homunculus at 12:17 PM on July 18, 2012


Why doesn't Assad just blame the current issues on Israel and declare war on them? Nothing else could possibly unify the country, and deflect criticism of his own regime, like the common enemy next door.
posted by gman at 12:57 PM on July 18, 2012


As the regime falls, what will happen to Syria's chemical weapons?

Syria Moving Parts of Chemical Arsenal: “The truth is, we just don’t know,” said one American official who has been monitoring intelligence reports since the Syrians began moving the chemical weapons in recent days. “There’s a big gaping hole in what we know.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:13 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that situation in Syria "is rapidly spinning out of control" and warned Mr. Assad’s government to safeguard its large stockpile of chemical weapons.

If Assad's really worried about his chemical weapons, he could just use them all up now, and -- poof -- problem solved. I believe in the murderous dictator handbook, they call that a win-win.
posted by Copronymus at 1:18 PM on July 18, 2012


Why doesn't Assad just blame the current issues on Israel and declare war on them? Nothing else could possibly unify the country, and deflect criticism of his own regime, like the common enemy next door.

I don't think you give the Syrian people enough credit - they aren't stupid. Neither are what's left of Assad's military commanders: they can barely hold on to their own capital city... there's no way they can go on a foreign adventure.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:42 PM on July 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Al Jazeera coverage

Scroll down for an interview with Robert Fisk.

"They have gone for the jugular, as we say. This is the classic way in which regimes tend to fall. Suddenly, either the top men defect or they are liquidated."

posted by philip-random at 2:43 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Michael Corleone: I saw a strange thing today. Some rebels were being arrested. One of them pulled the pin on a grenade. He took himself and the captain of the command with him. Now, soldiers are paid to fight; the rebels aren't.

Hyman Roth: What does that tell you?

Michael Corleone: They could win.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:52 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Al Jazeera is saying that the Syrian state media is saying that the Interior minister is also dead? The (earlier?) NYT story says that rebel claimed that the IM was dead but that the state media denied this, saying the the IM survived and is in a stable condition. No mention of this conflict in reports in that AJ story.
posted by Anything at 3:06 PM on July 18, 2012


I'm sorry for all the typos. I'm a little ill and dizzy today, FWIW
posted by Anything at 3:07 PM on July 18, 2012


I also still don't see the addition of the Interior Minister to the list of casualties on NYT or BBC reports. CNN does say the Syrian state media says he's dead, but that's neither here or there I guess.
posted by Anything at 3:30 PM on July 18, 2012


Interesting comment by Fisk late in that AJ interview. Apparently there's speculation that Russia has sent a lot of marines to Syria for the purpose of capturing the chemical weapons before they fall into the hands of someone else.
posted by Anything at 3:44 PM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm really confused by the AJ/CNN vs NYT/BBC discrepancy on the fate of the interior minister.
posted by Anything at 3:49 PM on July 18, 2012


Again, both AJ and CNN said that the Syrian state media also said that the interior minister Mohammad al-Shaar is dead. At least on the English language part of the Syrian state news site SANA, the only mention I can find is that he is alive and in a stable condition. (Site seems to be intermittently broken.)
posted by Anything at 4:02 PM on July 18, 2012


Any Arabic readers caring to look for the official truth on that question at SANA or elsewhere?
posted by Anything at 4:08 PM on July 18, 2012


U.S. May Not Be Able to Stop Syria From Using Chemical Weapons - Wired Danger Room
posted by rosswald at 4:11 PM on July 18, 2012


Telegraph:
Late last night, there were also claims from one rebel spokesman that Mr Assad himself may have been at the meeting when the bomb went off. It was suggested that he may have been wounded and taken out of Damascus on a private jet. Both reports were unconfirmed.
posted by Anything at 4:17 PM on July 18, 2012


Al Jazeera's own Profile of fallen ministers doesn't include the interior minister.
posted by Anything at 4:24 PM on July 18, 2012


If Assad goes for chemical weapons en masse, does direct foreign intervention still require a UN security council vote?
posted by Anything at 4:31 PM on July 18, 2012


From the Danger Room link:
And there is little appetite in the U.S. military for taking on that challenge. Globalsecurity.org estimates Syria possesses “hundreds of liters” of Sarin, mustard gas and VX. The Pentagon estimates that 75,000 troops would be required to secure the chemical stockpiles, a force nearly the size of the one the U.S. fields in Afghanistan.
So securing the weapons sounds near impossible, and if Assad does try to use the weapons it isn't clear if anything can be done. Pretty frightening.
posted by rosswald at 4:35 PM on July 18, 2012


is more likely to come from US signals intelligence or an Israeli intelligence asset.

Ha, I don't think think so. Rhetoric aside - US and Israel were relative allies of both Assad Pere and Fils until most recently. Hezbollah have been the ones launching the rockets into Israel and make up a large proportion of the rebels I understand. It would indeed, be interesting times if Israel started sharing intelligence with Hezbollah...
posted by smoke at 4:41 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


So the conflict will escalate, killing more innocents as Assad entrenches himself even further to save his face along with the rest of himself.

Indeed, this might spur Assad to start using bombs, artillery, and helicopters on Syria's civilian population. [img]facepalm.jpg[/img]
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:44 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Institute For the Study of War: The Evolution of Syria’s Opposition (via Brown Moses.)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:12 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Great post, read this on the beeb after hearing it on the radio earlier. Surely this is the end for Assad now, unless he unleashes the chemical weapons. The whole thing is fucked up.
posted by marienbad at 5:51 PM on July 18, 2012


Bashar al-Assad does not equal the Assad regime, Clinton's childish insistence notwithstanding. As the husband of a Syrian national, with family living in the Beqaa, it's not chemical weapons I'm scared of, it's a multinationally sponsored civil war that spreads across the Levant. None of the parties involved here, from the US, to the Saudis and Qataris, to the Russians, are friends of Middle-Eastern democracy. Cui bono?
posted by howfar at 6:16 PM on July 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


If Assad hadn't started killing protesters, would there nevertheless have been a civil war?
posted by Anything at 6:48 PM on July 18, 2012


The Deteriorating Situation in Syria: A Discussion Among Four Brookings Middle East Experts
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:54 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Assad hadn't started killing protesters, would there nevertheless have been a civil war?

It's a genuine possibility. The divisions in Syrian society aren't the result of Assad being a bad man, although he is undoubtedly that. What is unfolding in the Arab world is not a goodies and baddies narrative with dictators on one side and democrats on the other. We have a complex and rapidly developing situation involving Sunni/Shia sectarianism, genuine democratic popular movements, neocolonial geopolitics and the millennium spanning battle over the nature of Arab identity, along with a multitude of individual, local and national issues.

None of this excuses the nature of the Syrian regime, nor its actions in the ongoing civil war. However, it saddens, rather than surprises me, that the vertiginous complexity of the situation is entirely ignored by Western politicians and media alike.
posted by howfar at 7:28 PM on July 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


What sorts of solutions can the West advocate for in the present situation? From what I understand, Assad seems uniquely hostile to any thought of managing these problems in some way that doesn't involve massive bloodshed. What sort of improvement can there be that doesn't involve him being replaced with someone who is actually willing to negotiate?
posted by Anything at 7:54 PM on July 18, 2012


And if the real reason for this bloody stubbornness is the nature of some broader support structure behind him, then the same exact question applies to that structure.
posted by Anything at 8:12 PM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Plague of Thugs: Why Mideast dictators use hoodlums to suppress dissent.
posted by homunculus at 1:59 PM on July 19, 2012


West 'appalled' by Russia China UN veto: Russia and China have vetoed a UN Security Council resolution proposing further sanctions on Syria, prompting an angry Western response.
posted by homunculus at 2:08 PM on July 19, 2012


Tanks roll on Damascus as violence reigns: Heavy fighting grips capital with state source saying "all weapons will be used to finish off terrorists" by weekend.
posted by homunculus at 2:11 PM on July 19, 2012


Clinton on Syria: U.S. has done all it can do

"I know that people share my deep frustration and outrage at what's going on inside Syria, but my job is not just to express outrage. My job is to try to figure out what can be done that would be effective," Clinton said. "And sometimes a situation dons not lend itself to an answer that is immediately satisfying."

"I'm very confident we've done everything that we can do" to bring the situation to an end as quickly as possible, she said.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:47 PM on July 19, 2012


If Syria collapses, Iran faces loss of valued ally
“We are supporting some uprisings and ignoring others,” said Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, a Middle East analyst based in Tehran. “Arab people do not believe us anymore. We come across as antagonists, following our political agenda.”

The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran was once a model for the region, but the Arab world’s revolutionaries now look to Egypt, he said, with its experiment in democratizing an Islamic society. “Instead of gaining influence, we are witnessing the emergence of new powerful countries that in the future could pose a challenge to us,” Mr. Shamsolvaezin said.
posted by Anything at 12:03 AM on July 20, 2012


Ramadan becomes the newest front in Syria's civil war
posted by homunculus at 7:38 PM on July 20, 2012


Free Syrian Army Controls Border Areas
posted by homunculus at 5:15 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Syria’s Ballistic Missile Arsenal Looms As Assad Regime Buckles
posted by homunculus at 4:31 PM on July 22, 2012


U.S. to focus on forcibly toppling Syrian government
The Obama administration has for now abandoned efforts for a diplomatic settlement to the conflict in Syria, and instead it is increasing aid to the rebels and redoubling efforts to rally a coalition of like-minded countries to forcibly bring down the government of President Bashar al-Assad, American officials say.

Administration officials have been in talks with officials in Turkey and Israel over how to manage a Syrian government collapse.
posted by Anything at 12:56 AM on July 23, 2012


Syrian regime makes chemical warfare threat: Syria admits to possessing weapons of mass destruction and says they would be deployed against a foreign attack
posted by homunculus at 5:06 PM on July 23, 2012


Meanwhile, next door in Iraq: Iraq violence leaves more than 100 dead - Series of attacks targeting security forces and Shia neighbourhoods raises fears of al-Qaida offensive
posted by homunculus at 5:10 PM on July 23, 2012


A Syrian Bloodbath Revisited: Searching for the Truth Behind the Houla Massacre.
posted by homunculus at 11:33 AM on July 26, 2012


No, Syria Doesn’t Have Saddam’s Chemical Weapons
posted by homunculus at 3:23 PM on July 27, 2012


Alawistan: Bashar al-Assad may be gearing up to create an Alawite statelet along Syria's coastal mountains. And he has the means to do it.
posted by homunculus at 3:38 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Diary from Damascus
posted by homunculus at 9:49 AM on July 29, 2012


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