Friday, June 22, 2018

Loyal army, inner circle still back Assad, say U.S. intelligence officials

WASHINGTON — Despite the Obama administration's predictions that the Syrian government's days are numbered, recent U.S. intelligence reports suggest President Bashar Assad commands a formidable army that is unlikely to turn on him, an inner circle that has stayed loyal and an elite class that still supports his rule.

The assessment hinted at a continuing campaign lasting several months, if not longer, with more Syrians dying. For the past year, Assad's government has tried to crush a popular uprising inspired by the Arab Spring movements. The United Nations says more than 7,500 people have died.

Over time, worsening economic conditions could threaten Assad's hold on power. Food prices recently doubled, unemployment is rising and refined fuel products are running out.

But no mass protests over food or fuel shortages have broken out, and there hasn't been any discernible slowing in military activity because of a lack of supplies, the Associated Press reported, citing three unnamed intelligence officials. They spoke to the AP on Friday on condition of anonymity to provide a snapshot of reports and an analysis of the crisis.

Satellite imagery shows a new ferocity to the government's attacks, including artillery shelling of mosques, schools, playgrounds and a hospital, in the Sunni neighborhood of Homs, AP cited the officials as saying.

Assad's forces mounted a new assault Saturday on the northern region of Idlib, one of the centers of the uprising against the president. The military operation has raised fears of a new all-out offensive like the siege last month that captured Homs.

The army's campaigns have driven 2,000 refugees over the Lebanese border, displaced up to 200,000 more Syrians and spurred some, including the deputy oil minister, to defect, while two army generals are reported to have departed.

But none of the defectors thus far is regarded as belonging to Assad's inner circle, not all who have abandoned him have joined the opposition, and there are no indications of a broader pattern of elites pulling their support for him. That includes not just Assad's Allawite clan, but the minority Christians, Kurds and Druze, who all fear persecution under a possible Sunni Islamic rule.

President Barack Obama said last week that the bloodshed was heartbreaking and inexcusable, but he made clear that he does not favor military action now against Assad.

"The notion that the way to solve every one of these problems is to deploy our military, that hasn't been true in the past and it won't be true now," Obama said. He suggested Assad will leave without an outside military shove, but he gave no indication when.

Comments
St. Petersburg couple drive a minivan, volunteer at church and were CIA spies

St. Petersburg couple drive a minivan, volunteer at church and were CIA spies

What's it like to start a family when you're working for the CIA? Jihi and Andrew Bustamante know.
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Campaign donations in Florida governorís race hit $80 million

Campaign donations in Florida governorís race hit $80 million

A Ukrainian oligarch with property in South Beach; a conservative Chicago entrepreneur and a liberal hedge fund billionaire; two candidate's dads, a couple of loyal business partners and three of Florida's most powerful corporations.Those are among t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
African wild dogs make comeback at Mozambican wildlife park

African wild dogs make comeback at Mozambican wildlife park

African wild dogs make comeback at Mozambican park in effort to restore delicate ecosystem
Updated: 1 hour ago
Charles Krauthammer, conservative columnist and pundit, dies

Charles Krauthammer, conservative columnist and pundit, dies

Charles Krauthammer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator who helped shape and occasionally dissented from the conservative movement, died Thursday.
Updated: 1 hour ago

AP Top News at 5:39 a.m. EDT

AP Top News at 5:39 a.m. EDT
Updated: 1 hour ago
Malaysia names new central bank governor

Malaysia names new central bank governor

Malaysia has named an experienced former central bank official, Nor Shamsiah Mohamad Yunus, as the new central bank governor
Updated: 1 hour ago
GOP struggles to salvage immigration bill, postpones vote

GOP struggles to salvage immigration bill, postpones vote

President Donald Trump is suggesting that any measure the House passes is doomed in the Senate anyway
Updated: 1 hour ago
Egypt to complain about match officials in World Cup loss

Egypt to complain about match officials in World Cup loss

Egypt plans to complain to FIFA about the "injustice" of match officials during the team's World Cup loss to Russia
Updated: 1 hour ago
Confusion swirls on border after Trump reversal on families

Confusion swirls on border after Trump reversal on families

About 500 of the more than 2,300 children separated from their families at the border have been reunited since May, a senior Trump administration official says
Updated: 1 hour ago
Confusion swirls on border after Trump reversal on families

Confusion swirls on border after Trump reversal on families

About 500 of the more than 2,300 children separated from their families at the border have been reunited since May, a senior Trump administration official says
Updated: 1 hour ago