Posted by Joshua on Saturday, June 7th, 2008
I just received this assessment of the Shawkat kerfuffle from a well place Israeli friend.
What I was told, about two weeks ago, by an high-rank Israeli intelligence source, is that Assad is in full control of the situation in Damascus, and that there is no seeming threat on him. Not only this, but also that he decides what to tell to who on which subject.
Assef Shawkat "doesn’t know everything" about what's going on, he said, but didn't mention any coup attempt. Also, Farouq A-Shara'a is now pushed aside and Walid Muallem is in control over the foreign policy. In the street, he believes, Assad enjoys support because he has proven that he will not "sell" his country interests.
I also want to remind you that Assef Shawkat was seen on Syrian TV a few months ago – April 10th – in a ceremony held by the superior military academy at the end of officers course. Also, Khaddam said a few days earlier, exactly what "Stratfor" mentioned.
Please don't quote me by name on this in case you decide to use it…
– It should be noted that Die Welt has something of a history with Syria. It previously carried what seems to be a manufactured story about Iran/Syria/al-Qa’ida collaboration. It was also Die Welt that published the rather absurd allegations that Syria had been testing chemical weapons in Darfur a couple of years ago. It was also Die Welt that claimed just recently that Syria was building more (!) nuclear sites, and now, the attempted coup. There are different reporters involved in these and other stories about Syria (although a few names appear in more than one: like Jacques Schuster & Clemens Wergins), but they all seem to have in common that the source is someone in a Western intelligence service. Now, either the Mid-East correspondents of Die Welt have some truly spectacular contacts, or — given how much of the above seems to be bullshit — they are being fed by one or more groups using this paper as a info/disinfo outlet, for whatever reason. Sort of like a European al-Siyasa.
– One should also consider the possibility that if the coup story is untrue, spreading rumors about these things can serve to “draw” Syria into a particular action, either to make sure there is no coup, or to publicly prove it, eg. by parading Shawkat on TV (which, A. sets a precedent, and B. may be uncomfortable, given that he’s doing something else/being somewhere else). Or, it could just be a self-sustaining rumor, after the Bushra-in-exile thing, fired up by people like Khaddam and various intelligence agencies that enjoy poking Syria and setting off another Arab media conspiracy theory avalanche.