Assad Shuffles Syrian Government Amid Pressures
Syria shuffled their government this weekend, naming a new vice president and foreign minister and filling the interior minister position that had been left vacant since the death of Maj. Gen. Ghazi Kanaan. Many still question the circumstances of Kanaan’s death, officially called a suicide by Syrian authorities.
Bashar Assad pulled hard-line Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara from his post, naming him to be his vice president. Appointed to replace him as foreign minister is Walid al-Moualem. As Syria awaits a confrontation at the UN with the United States, among others, it is no accident that the man who had been Syria’s Ambassador to the United States for ten years takes the reins. Bassam Abdel Majeed was tapped to become Syria’s interior minister, coming from a post as a ‘senior security officer’, which can have a multitude of meanings in Syria.
Former vice president, Abdul Halim Khaddam, predicted that Assad’s regime in Syria will fall in 2006, saying, “currently, there is no way to correct the regime from inside the nation. Bashar is acting like someone who has a farm and wants to manage it on his own. He would not listen to any idea other than those praising him.”
Having recently allied with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to unseat Assad, his prediction may be considered, at least in part, a marketing campaign with the intent of shopping the idea. If the United States feels a renewed sense of urgency and imminence regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions and development, Assad may benefit from a reprieve borne of necessity. Khaddam may receive far less tangible support from the United States than he might have otherwise sensed he had garnered.
Coming up on the anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Syria is feeling renewed pressure from Lebanon, as The March 14 Group in Lebanon is calling for the Lebanese government to file an official complaint against Syria and Lebanon’s pro-Syrian President Emil Lahoud. The group outright accused Lahoud of complicity in the rash of assassinations in Lebanon of various figures in the past year.
Add to that the return of Saad Hariri from self-imposed exile, returning to mark the anniversary of his father’s assassination by attempting to revive the Cedar Revolution. He had fled Lebanon fearing that he was on the short list of those due to be assassinated. Calling for the Lebanese people to flood Beruit’s Martyrs’ Square on Tuesday, Hariri said of Syria, “They thought that their intelligence and security apparatuses can re-emerge strongly, but we will tell them at Martyrs’ Square that we will not allow their return.”
Tuesday will be an interesting day in Beirut, one which Syria will be watching closely, gauging just how much passion remains among the Lebanese people and how much has subsided.