Thursday

24th May 2018

Intelligence experts: Nato has options on Assad

  • Houla massacre. The Israeli source said Assad is 'a legitimate target' for assassination (Photo: FreedomHouse2)

A former Israeli intelligence chief has said EU and Nato countries can do more on Syria than complaining about Russia or imposing sanctions.

The contact, who asked not to be named, spoke to diplomats and press in the EU capital last week.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He said the Sunni Muslim opposition is not going to win by itself.

Assad's generals, secret police chiefs and his diplomatic corps are still loyal, while important minorities - such as Alawite Muslims, Druze Muslims and Christians, as well as businessmen in Damascus and Aleppo - do not want Sunni rule.

Outside the country, Russia, Iran, Shia Muslims in Iraq and Shittes and Christians in Lebanon, also want him to stay.

"When you see a real general, preferably an Alawite general, defect, then you will know he is on his way out ... Unless the Druze clearly change position, he is quite stable," the contact noted.

The West has been saying for the past year it cannot do to Assad what it did to Libya's Colonel Gaddafi because Russia is refusing to give it a UN mandate.

On Friday (15 June) the EU reacted to news that the UN monitoring mission is suspending operations by imposing another embargo on imports of luxury goods to Syria.

But the Israeli contact believes the West does not need UN permission to make Assad loyalists think "a tsunami" is coming to sweep him away.

Potential measures include: moving a Nato aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean; Turkish military exercises on the Syrian border; moving Turkish army divisions to the border; conducting Nato reconaissance flights in Syrian airspace; sending messages to Assad generals via intelligence contacts that "the world is serious" about regime change.

"Sometimes a stick in the air is better than a stick on the head," the contact said.

If it comes to Libya-type intervention, he noted that Assad's Russian-made anti-aircraft defences are no match for Western air power and that his army will not use its chemical weapons.

"[Assad] knows that if he uses chemical weapons today then the end is tomorrow. Even if he knows the end is tomorrow, he will not use them today. Look at the example of [late Iraqi leader] Saddam Hussein: Israeli citizens were issued with gas masks [during the Gulf War] but nothing happened," he said.

Why not kill Assad?

He added that Assad has become "a legitimate target" for assassination, but the West "still has hesitations about whether to cross the Rubicon."

For his part, Michel Koutouzis, a Paris-based intelligence expert, told EUobserver it would be impossible to kill Assad without tacit Russian approval.

"Intelligence services know each other. They talk to each other. You can kill your own people [such as Russia's poisoning of ex-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko in London]. But this [Assad] would be outside the rules of the game," he said.

He also said Turkey could remove him "overnight" by closing dams on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and shutting off Syria's drinking water.

But he warned that if the West or if Saudi Arabia arms the opposition, they would transform the situation from a regime massacre to a sectarian civil war, with no 'innocent victims' for outsiders to help.

A Turkish contact told this website: "I am not sure that it is technically feasible or politically acceptable in any circumstances to cut off the water supply of the innocent Syrian people."

Sofia summit: EU leaders search for a Trump strategy

"With friends like that, who needs enemies?" European Council Donald Tusk asked on Wednesday, as EU leaders were trying to come up with a reply to the US president's questioning of the transatlantic relationship.

Analysis

EU has no 'magic bullet' against US Iran sanctions

EU leaders in Sofia will discuss how they can protect the bloc's economic interests against US threats to sanction companies doing business in Iran. But their options are limited.

Opinion

Ratifying CETA after 'Achmea scandal' is anti-European

While few people in Europe have heard of the 'Achmea' ruling, the case will have far-reaching consequences. Member states must understand the implications of the case quickly - especially those considering ratifying the EU-Canada trade agreement.

News in Brief

  1. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  2. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  3. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  4. UK households hit with Brexit income loss
  5. Report: EU faces 10% cut in steel exports to US
  6. Australia wants more access to EU agricultural market
  7. CV of Italian PM candidate under scrutiny
  8. Puigdemont Spain extradition rejected by German court

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Visegrad Four 'nothing to hide' on rule of law issue
  2. GDPR does not (yet) give right to global oblivion
  3. Privacy Shield less relevant given GDPR, says data chief
  4. Unknown academic to lead Italy into EU clash
  5. 'Killer robot' projects eligible for EU defence fund
  6. Funding for European values needs radical changes
  7. Feeble EU format deflates Zuckerberg 'hearing'
  8. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?