Syria: Assad changes Minister of Defense ahead of showdown with Davutoğlu; Ali Habib out – Dawood Rajiha in

According to SANA President Bashar al-Assad appointed General Dawood Rajiha, the current army chief of staff to the position of minister of defense. According to SANA the changes was part of “the consecutive steps announced by President Bashar al-Assad recently”. SANA did not elaborated, but added that Ali Habib had been ill for some time, and his health condition deteriorated recently.

Now, it cannot be ruled out that Ali Habib was indeed of ill health and that the pressure on him took its toll as the uprising escalated, and the number of people killed, maimed and tortured kept on climbing. But the replacing of Ali Habib could also have another explanation. Yesterday Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Baharin recalled their ambassadors for consultation. Add to his recent condemnations from the GCC, Arab League and The Holy See and most recently from Al-Azhar, where the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb had this to say on the situation in Syria: “Al-Azhar was patient for a long time and avoided talking about the situation in Syria because of its sensitive nature … but the situation has gone too far and there is no other solution but to put an end to this Arab and Islamic tragedy…asks Syrian leaders to work immediately to end the bloodshed and to respond favorably to the legitimate demands of the Syrian masses. The vast repression, the use of the highest levels of violence, arrests and intimidation represent an unacceptable human tragedy.”

According to France24 rumors in Syria has it that the replacement of Ali Habib has to do with him being unhappy with the intensity of the crackdown. Under this theory Habib would have lost an internal struggle against Maher al-Assad. But as with many things in Syria the lack of transparency and information create a need to explain changes. In this case it might be true, but we cannot rule out a case of whishful thinking. In the end we will have to see how the replacement of Ali Habib with Dawood Rajiah will effect the crackdown.

Today Turkey’s FM Davutoğlu will arrive in Syria for a showdown, to deliver a last warning to Bashar al-Assad.

About Leif Eriksson

Leif Eriksson has worked in the field of asylum at the Swedish Migration Agency specializing in the Middle East, Schengen and the Dublin Regulation, as Migration Attaché and head of the migration section at the Swedish Embassy in Damascus 2005 - 2008, as a resettlement consultant at the UNHCR branch office in Damascus 2008 - 2009, Consul at the Swedish Consulate General in Jerusalem 2012 - 2013 and associate RSD/RST officer at UNHCR in Beirut 2013 - 2014. He currently lives in Tbilisi, Georgia.
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