Syria's Assad will remain for years

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 24, 2013
Rebels in Aleppo take a break from the fighting (Photo: AP)

Rebels in Aleppo take a break from the fighting (Photo: AP)

A senior member of the IDF has argued that Syrian President Bashar al Assad is unlikely to be ousted any time soon.

In an interview last week with Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, Major-General Yair Golan, head of the IDF’s Northern Command, predicted that “he will remain for years. I don’t see a force that can topple him tomorrow morning”.

Maj-Gen Golan’s assessment differs considerably from the predictions of Israeli intelligence analysts earlier in the conflict that “Assad may fall in a matter of days”.

In the interview, Maj-Gen Golan said that while the Syrian army had lost many of its capabilities and no longer posed a major strategic threat to Israel “it can still continue to suppress the rebels vigorously”.

Meanwhile, intelligence experts are poring over the detailed report submitted by Syria on Saturday to the international community as part of the effort to disarm the country of its chemical weapons.

Assad (Photo: AP)

Assad (Photo: AP)

The report, which is supposed to contain a complete list of Syria’s chemical arsenal, was sent to the Organisation of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague just before the seven-day deadline set by the US and Russia expired.

Syria is believed to have at least 1,000 tons of chemical weapons and the report is being checked against what is known by Western intelligence agencies.

Some Western officials admitted over the weekend that they were surprised by the comprehensiveness of the report but added that it would take some time to make sure it was complete and would probably need to be returned to the Syrian government for clarifications.

The Russian and American administrations remain in disagreement over whether a resolution on the disarmament should contain a reference to chapter seven of the UN charter, which allows the use of force. The Russians oppose the inclusion of chapter seven.

Meanwhile, there have been conflicting reports over whether the Assad regime has tried to reach a ceasefire with the rebel forces.

In an interview with the Guardian, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said that the regime and rebels had reached a stalemate in which neither side “is capable of defeating the other side” and that Damascus would be seeking a ceasefire followed by a peace process and elections.

On Friday, however, Mr Jamil denied that the regime would be calling for a ceasefire and said he had been speaking only in a personal capacity. On Saturday, Assad himself said in a meeting with European parliamentarians that “the Islamist groups leave the regime with no option but to eliminate them”, and that he would remain in power at least until the presidential elections next year.

Last updated: 5:45pm, September 24 2013