Syrian President Bashar Assad’s departure is “inevitable,” the US State
Department’s top Middle East official said Wednesday, adding that several Arab
states had offered the embattled Syrian president sanctuary within their
“Almost all the Arab leaders, foreign ministers who I talk to
say the same thing: Assad’s rule is coming to an end. It is inevitable,” US
Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman told a Senate panel.RELATED:
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of these Arabs have even begun to offer Assad safe haven to encourage him to
leave quickly,” he added, without elaborating.
Feltman said the US hoped
Assad and his inner circle would “head for the exits
According to activists, an estimated 16 people were killed
Wednesday in Damascus, Hama and Homs.
On Thursday, at least another five
people – four of them army troops – were killed in clashes with insurgents in
Idlib, near Aleppo, CNN reported. Another three civilians were killed in Homs,
the network reported, quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human
Mordechai Kedar – a scholar at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin- Sadat
Center and author of the 2006 book Assad in Search of Legitimacy
– said he
believed it might be a matter of weeks before the Syrian autocrat was
“This escalation means Assad cannot survive such an upheaval, in
which more and more of those who supported him in the past abandon
him. It is inevitable,” he asserted.
On reports of Arab offers of
safe haven, Kedar said that “it doesn’t mean much, except that more and more
Arab states already sense that the time has come for him to leave, and that
maybe they’re trying to encourage him to leave.”
Saudi Arabia has
traditionally been a favored destination for embattled Arab and Muslim leaders
going into exile, from Ugandan dictator Idi Amin to Pakistani prime minister
Nawaz Sharif, and earlier this year, Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben
Kedar said exile in the desert kingdom was one possible outcome,
though not the most likely.
“The Saudis don’t like him. He’s not a
Muslim; he’s an infidel, and he’s been killing Muslims,” he stated. “I think
Iran is more likely to do so, but it won’t say so now, because that would mean
it has already given up on him.”
Assad is a member of the secretive
Alawite sect, but has extremely close political and military ties to the Shi’ite
theocracy in Tehran.
“The entire old guard of leadership in the Arab
world is going away one by one. Assad has almost no friends anymore,” Kedar
noted. “He doesn’t feel comfortable in the changing Arab world, so that’s why
Iran may be his best choice.”
On Wednesday, eight people were killed and
25 wounded as forces fired on a funeral procession in Damascus. YouTube footage
distributed by activists purportedly showed several soldiers and security police
at a main thoroughfare in the capital shooting automatic rifles in the direction
of a crowd running to take cover.
Wednesday’s bloodshed was some of the
worst yet in the capital, which, along with Aleppo, has not yet experienced
“Damascus is a very big city with many
neighborhoods. Some are Kurdish. If riots or unrest comes to those
neighborhoods, it doesn’t mean much, because the Kurds are already rising up
against the regime in their own district in the North,” Kedar said. “But if the
rich Arab merchants of Damascus start demonstrating, that would be a
In addition, he said, “the city of Rastan, which isn’t far from
Damascus, is a military city in which a large portion of the population is
officers and their families. Rastan was a target of a very hard regime crackdown
two months ago. This uprising could indeed spread to more of those who used to
The death toll in the nearly eight-month uprising is
believed to be over 3,500, but Kedar said that figure could be much
“So far, around 3,500 have been killed who are known by name.
However there are dozens of thousands who were arrested, and no one really knows
what happened with them,” he said.
In a letter to the Arab League, the
Syrian National Council – the main opposition group, formed in Istanbul two
months ago – said a League initiative to bring calm to Syria had reached a “dead
end” after Assad’s forces killed 100 civilians in the last seven days. The
letter said it was time “to seek protection for civilians according to all
legitimate means under international law.”
Syria’s representative to the
Arab League insisted Damascus had “gone a long way” toward implementing the
plan, pointing to the release of around 500 detainees under a conditional
amnesty announced last week.
The official Syrian news agency reported
that life was carrying on as usual in Homs and municipal departments were
removing refuse piled in the streets by “armed terrorist gangs.”
contributed to this report.