Brian Whitaker picks out six pointers suggesting Assad’s days are numbered:
Each day’s news brings more reasons to believe the Assad regime’s fall cannot be far away. Viewed individually these signs may not in themselves spell doom for the regime but collectively they do.
1. Withdrawal of UN and diplomatic personnel: The UN announced yesterday that it has cancelled all missions to Syria from abroad and suspended its activities inside the country. All non-essential staff are to be withdrawn because of the “prevailing security situation”. The European Union, which has a diplomatic office in Damascus, also said it will cut back activities ” to a minimum level due to the current security conditions”. In effect, the UN and EU are now only a step away from ordering a complete evacuation.
2. Jihad Makdissi flees: The foreign ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, has fled Syria and yesterday was reported to have arrived in London. This may not be as big a loss as some of the earlier defections and assassinations but it does tell us how someone who was privy to a lot of regime information now views the situation.
Whether Makdissi actually has a political quarrel with the regime is unclear but the Washington Post, citing a friend of Makdissi,
says he is “taking a break from the pressure of being the official face of the government in the media while having no security protection for himself or his family”.
If we take this at face value and assume he has not fallen out with Assad, it’s a message of no confidence in the regime’s once-feared security apparatus.
3. Damascus airport: A capital city without a functioning airport isn’t really a capital city any more. Syrian officials insist the airport is still open, but to what extent it may be operating is a different matter. Travel to and from the airport is dangerous and very few of the few remaining scheduled flights appear to be arriving or leaving. Egyptair announced yesterday that it was resuming flights but then changed its mind. [Continue reading…]