Syrian President’s mother said to have ‘defected’
January 30, 2013 4 Comments
By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Arab media reports appeared to confirm yesterday an allegation made last week by a senior American diplomat that the mother of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had abandoned the country. Speaking to CNN last week, Ambassador Robert Ford, who served as the United States’ envoy to Syria until he was recalled by Washington in 2011, said Anisah Makhlouf al-Assad had escaped to the United Arab Emirates. The 78-year-old widow of late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1970 until his death in 2000, is a revered figure among government supporters. As the current President’s mother, she is said to exercise significant influence on the Syrian regime’s core decision makers, despite her advanced age. According several reports in Arab media, Anisah has now joined her daughter Bushra al-Assad in the Emirates. Bushra, who is the Syrian President’s oldest sister, escaped with her five children to the Gulf oil state in July 2012, after her husband, Assef Shawkat, Syria’s deputy Minister of Defense, was assassinated by the opposition in Damascus along with two other senior Syrian government officials. In his CNN interview, Ambassador Ford argued that Anisah’s defection showed that, “little by little, the inner core [of the Syrian regime] is weakening” as its members are “flaking off. They themselves know they are losing”, he added. The President’s mother’s defection is among the most high-profile such cases in Syria since March of 2011, when the ongoing civil war erupted. In early 2012, General Mustafa al-Sheikh a 37-year veteran in the Syrian armed forces, escaped to Turkey. Five months later, another senior military official, General Manaf Tlass, commander of the 10th Brigade of Syria’s elite Republican Guard, left the country with the help of French intelligence. In December of the same year, British newspaper The Guardian claimed that Jihad Makdissi, official spokesperson of Syria’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, and a member of President al-Assad’s inner circle, had been exfiltrated from Syria by the Central Intelligence Agency and was living with his family in the United States.