News / Middle East

Analysts: Hardline Assad Backers Likely Dismayed Over International Diplomacy

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gestures during an interview in Damascus in this in this handout photo distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA, Sept. 2, 2013.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gestures during an interview in Damascus in this in this handout photo distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA, Sept. 2, 2013.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s acceptance in principle of a Russian proposal to place his deadly chemical weapons under international supervision is likely facing resistance from his own military, analysts say. But Assad may have had little choice because of Iranian and Russian pressure.

Civilian supporters in Damascus of President Bashar al-Assad expressed relief this week when he accepted a Russian proposal to place his regime’s chemical weapons under international supervision.

His acceptance has led to international diplomacy which has put off U.S. plans for a strike against Syrian forces for their alleged chemical attack last mount outside Damascus.

For the respite civilians were thankful. But not everyone in the Assad regime is pleased.

Observers of the Syrian military establishment said hardliners would likely resist as international diplomacy advanced.

Aram Nerguizian is with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.

“You are certainly going to see some consternation within the regime. I have no doubt there will be pushback within the security establishment on issues like giving up a trump card, chemical weapons,” said Nerguizian.

Yezid Sayigh, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Center, agreed.

“For some of the regime, the mere fact of losing the chemical weapons capability, which could be the outcome of this, might be something they see as very dangerous and threatening,” said Sayigh.

This image provided by Shaam News Network Aug. 22, 2013, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show several bodies being buried in a suburb of Damascus, Syria during a funeral on Aug. 21, 2013.This image provided by Shaam News Network Aug. 22, 2013, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show several bodies being buried in a suburb of Damascus, Syria during a funeral on Aug. 21, 2013.
x
This image provided by Shaam News Network Aug. 22, 2013, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show several bodies being buried in a suburb of Damascus, Syria during a funeral on Aug. 21, 2013.
This image provided by Shaam News Network Aug. 22, 2013, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show several bodies being buried in a suburb of Damascus, Syria during a funeral on Aug. 21, 2013.
While acknowledging it was difficult to know what went on inside Assad's secretive inner-circles, Sayigh believed the Syrian president may be blaming his military chiefs for the alleged August 21 attack, the largest use so far of nerve agents in the two-and-half year civil war.

The Assad regime denied orchestrating that attack and blamed the rebels. The U.S. said it was sure Syrian forces carried out the attack, which it said killed 1,400 people.

Human rights groups said there have been previous chemical attacks by Syrian government forces during the war. But they said these attacks were smaller in scale, resulting in fewer casualties.

Some experts suspected last month's attack may have been misjudged in terms of trajectories and wind conditions and the amount of nerve agent used. If so, it allowed Assad to place blame on his military, Sayigh said.

He said, “If this was a case of a military operation and there was a misjudgment resulting in unexpected and unplanned and unwanted civilian casualties, then Bashar al-Assad might turn around and say ‘you guys overplayed your hand; you got your trajectories wrong.’ He could say ‘well, it is your stupidity that put us here and this is now a matter of damage limitation.’”

While international negotiations were under way, analysts said some in the Syrian security establishment would urge Assad to defy the U.S. and let the Americans strike, said military expert Nerguizian. But, he said, there would be countervailing pressure on Assad from his foreign backers, Russia and Iran.

“The forces that are in the Assad regime can compete, can disagree, but it is very clear to most observers that this is something that enjoys the full backing of Iran, enjoys the full backing of Moscow, at least in terms of rhetoric and as a mechanism for de-escalating tensions,” said Nerguizian.

Russian and Iranian patronage is crucial for the survival of the Assad government. Russia said there was "every reason" to blame rebels for the chemical attacks. And Iran has urged West to seek a diplomatic settlement of Syria crisis.

You May Like

Kurdish President: More Needed to Defeat Islamic State

In interview with VOA's Persian Service, Massoud Barzani says peshmerga forces have not received weapons, logistical support needed to successfully fight IS in northern Iraq More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs