Israel: Assad Will Be Gone In Weeks


assad1In a shift, Israeli officials are welcoming the prospect that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, will be overthrown, an event they say could be weeks away.As Syria’s embattled president, Bashar al-Assad, comes under mounting pressure from a revolt at home and moves to isolate him abroad, Israeli officials are welcoming the prospect of his possible overthrow, saying that his departure is a matter of time.

As Assad has come under mounting pressure from a revolt at home and moves to isolatehim abroad, initial wariness of speaking out publicly about the fate of his Assad’s regime has given way to open speculation by officials and analysts about how long he can hold on to power, who might replace him and the possible risks of a chaotic disintegration of his rule.

“Basically, it’s inevitable,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a telephone interview before flying Wednesday to Washington for meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other administration officials. “The Assad family, through their own behavior, have lost their last drop of legitimacy and put themselves beyond the point of no return with their brutal slaughter of their own people. He has ceased to be something relevant.”

“It might take many weeks,” Barak added, ” but it’s not a matter of months or years.”In a separate interview, Moshe Ya’alon, the minister of Strategic Affairs, said: “It’s a matter of time and bloodshed before we will witness Assad’s departure. That is our assessment.”

Barak predicted that an eventual removal of Assad would undermine an alliance of Israel’s enemies, including militant Islamist groups backed by Iran and Syria that have fought Israel across its northern and southern borders.

“When the Assad family falls, it will be a major blow to the radical axis led by Iran,” Barak said “It will weaken Iran, it will weaken Hezbollah and weaken the backing for Hamas, and it will deprive the Iranians of a real stronghold in the Arab world. It will strengthen Turkey, which is a natural rival to Iran’s hegemonic intentions. …This is something positive for Israel.”

Ya’alon said that in the event that Assad was toppled, Iran and Hezbollah would “lose an asset in Damascus” a development that would “serve our interest.”

The makeup of Syrian society, which is more secular than some of its Arab neighbors, gives reason to expect that a change of government in Damascus could produce “something more promising and clearly more legitimate than what we have now,” Barak said.

Ya’alon said that in contrast to post-revolutionary Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as a dominant force in recent elections, “we do see moderate Sunni (Muslim) elements” in Syria that could come to the fore in a post-Assad government.

The upbeat assessment of the consequences of a possible end to Assad’s rule contrasts with conventional thinking in Israel in years past, when Assad was credited with maintaining calm along the frontier with the Israeli-held Golan Heights and presenting a stable alternative to a possible takeover by Islamic fundamentalists.

In 2005, when President George W. Bush’s administration contemplated regime change in Syria, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warned against such a policy, arguing that Assad was “the devil we know,” and could be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood.

{Washington Post/ Newscenter}