A prominent former official of the Syrian government said he thinks that President Bashar al-Assad will eventually be overthrown as a result of the regime’s brutal crackdown on demonstrators.
Abdelhalim Khaddam, who went into exile in Paris in 2005 after serving nearly two decades as Syria’s vice president, told the Al-Shorouk newspaper of Egypt that he thinks the Syrian military will soon decide to cease supporting Assad and end the sectarian strife [Assad] and his family are instigating.
Assad has exposed himself completely before the people, through the crimes committed by his security apparatus, Khaddam said.
This has created a deep feeling among Syrians that the continuation of the regime would be a catastrophe. The depth of the rift between the regime and the majority of the people... will lead to the collapse of a regime desperately struggling to survive.”
After more than a month of relentless anti-government protests in Syria, it is believed that more than 200 people have been killed by state security forces. Amidst the constant clamor for change, Assad has steadily made concessions to the protesters,
including the formation of a new cabinet and lifting the emergency laws that were first imposed almost a half-century ago.
However, Khaddam warns that Assad will continue to crack down on dissent and that his reforms are rather minor.
Khaddam has also pointed out that Assad, a member of the Alawite minority, a branch of Shia Islam, rules over a country with a Sunni Muslim majority.
All the security forces are from one sect [Alawite]... Power is concentrated within the ruling family, he said.
Khaddam himself is a controversial figure among Syrian opposition figures, according to reports, primarily because of his long service to Assad and the ruling Baath Party and the fact that he amassed a fortune while in office.
Another prominent Syrian opponent, Yassin Haj Saleh, has told the Los Angeles Times, that he thinks the country is ripe for big changes.
Saleh is in Syria and has attended several demonstrations in the country. He also fears reprisals from the authorities.
I've left home for a fortnight now, he said.
I’m living here and there and trying to be more careful in my movements. But I am speaking to satellite TV and my number is known, and this is a source of anxiety but I can't change it. Only in the streets I use my phone. TV channels will speak to me at any time. And that is why I left home -- to speak freely about the situation in the country.
Saleh also said: “The country is at a crucial point. We have either to win this battle and to face the difficulties of building a free country, and this will take a long time and be difficult. If the regime won this battle, I think we will see a new wave of fascism in the country.”
Still, he holds out some hope for real change.
“I cannot predict what will happen, but I hope that this will lead to change, perhaps not radical change, like what happened in Egypt and Tunisia,” he said.
“But I hope the regime will recognize the legitimacy of the uprising and that our political system will be built on this. In Syria maybe it is dangerous to think of toppling the regime completely. I hope we can reach a … historic compromise, but the problem is that we have the most violent and brutal regime in the region.”
Meanwhile, in Syria, Assad has named a new governor in the city of Homs, which has been under a security lockdown in the wake of massive anti-regime protests.
The state controlled SANA news agency said Ghassan Abdul-Al is the new governor. Protesters demanded his predecessor be sacked.
Soldiers and security agents have been deployed all over the city. Nonetheless activists are reportedly calling for more demonstrations on Friday.
The people want proper reform and democracy, and a real end to emergency law, an activist told Al Jazeera.
I think of the demonstrations started with demands of reform but the regime responded badly, by killing and detaining people. Now they're asking for regime change and demands are getting higher. In all funerals and protests now we're hearing the people want to topple the regime.