Comment: Is there a reason for the slow elimination of leading figures in the Syrian regime, asks Salameh Kaileh.
A number of elite members of the Syrian regime have met untimely ends in suspicious orviolentcircumstances in recent months – Rustom Ghazaleh, a regime spymaster, died last month after being severely beaten during an argument with another regime intelligence chief.
In 2012, the regime’s “crisis control room” – a cabal of senior spies and military men – were eliminated when a bomb destroyed their Damascus meeting place. Despite segments within the revolution claiming the operation, it appears the attack was a regime attempt to prevent the group planning a coup.
During the revolution, many officers who were connected to the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri in Lebanon were themselves killed, such as General Jamea Jamea.
But it is in recent weeks that this attrition has accellerated. In the last few days, the deaths of several senior officers was announced. The list included the commanders of the Fourth Armoured Division, the Belli military airbase, the army’s special forces and of the First Armoured Division.
Thereafter, three senior officers were reportedly killed by mistake when their location in Palmyra was hit by a regime air raid, with reports suggesting two of the officers were related to Assad.
Previously, Hafez Makhlouf, Assad’s cousin and senior figure in the General Security Directorate, was removed from his position and left Syria. Rafiq Shahada was also removed as the head of military intelligence.
All of these figures are considered to be the front line in the regime’s security and military structure, which indicates a calculated process of elimination.
This raises the question of why and who is carrying out the killings?
We have witnessed the collapse of what remains of the regular Syrian army and the chaos it now suffers, which has become very obvious since the fall of the 82nd Armoured Brigade in the south a few months ago.
The regime accused a number of the brigade’s officers of treason, and Iranian officers reportedly executed them, as has happened in other brigades.
The collapse of other army units also took place in the north after the creation of Jaish al-Fath, when regime troops retreated from bases in Idlib, and similarly retreated from the confrontation with the Islamic State group in Palmyra.
The tide has turned
The recent battles demonstrate that the forces sent by Iran are incapable of stopping the collapse or the regime’s military apparatus, as those forces are themselves in a difficult position. They have suffered heavy losses in various battlefields including Qalamoun, despite their efforts.
Therefore, as the regime’s army and its supporting forces are heading toward collapse, we should closely examine the process of elimination of its senior officers.
It seems that all those who have committed atrocities against the revolution are being liquidated, but who is carrying this out? Perhaps that will become clear once a solution is reached or once there is a change in the structure of the regime.