Assad regime denies attack on the Syrian president

The Syrian government has denied claims by rebel fighters that they attacked President Bashar al-Assad’s motorcade in central Damascus. The opposition Tahrir al-Sham brigade said it fired multiple artillery shells at Assad’s convoy, some of which it said hit the target. Syrian Information Minster Omran Zoabi said, "The news is wholly untrue" and Syrian state ...

ABDULLAH AL-SHAM/AFP/Getty Images
ABDULLAH AL-SHAM/AFP/Getty Images
ABDULLAH AL-SHAM/AFP/Getty Images

The Syrian government has denied claims by rebel fighters that they attacked President Bashar al-Assad's motorcade in central Damascus. The opposition Tahrir al-Sham brigade said it fired multiple artillery shells at Assad's convoy, some of which it said hit the target. Syrian Information Minster Omran Zoabi said, "The news is wholly untrue" and Syrian state television aired footage of Assad unharmed at the Anas bin Malik Mosque, in the Malki district where Assad and some regime aides have homes, for early morning prayers marking the end of Ramadan. According to some analysts, the footage could have been pre-recorded. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and some residents reported shelling in the Malki neighborhood. General Firas al-Bitar, head of Tahrir al-Sham brigade, said there were two convoys, one of which was a decoy, so he could not verify if Assad was wounded. However, he said, "The attack rattled the regime, even if Assad was not hit." If the attack is confirmed, it would be the most direct against the Syrian president since the beginning of the nearly two and a half year conflict.

Headlines

The EU and United States have called for an end to the "dangerous stalemate" in Egypt as fears rise of a violent crack down on Muslim Brotherhood protests. The U.S. questioned claims that Yemen foiled several al Qaeda plots and the Yemeni government stepped back from initial reports. Iran has constructed a second rocket-launching site in Shahrud, which could be use for testing ballistic missiles, according to an analysis of satellite imagery by IHS Jane's. Lebanon has accused Israel of a border incursion after an explosion injured four Israeli soldiers near the border with Lebanon in an area known for landmines.

The Syrian government has denied claims by rebel fighters that they attacked President Bashar al-Assad’s motorcade in central Damascus. The opposition Tahrir al-Sham brigade said it fired multiple artillery shells at Assad’s convoy, some of which it said hit the target. Syrian Information Minster Omran Zoabi said, "The news is wholly untrue" and Syrian state television aired footage of Assad unharmed at the Anas bin Malik Mosque, in the Malki district where Assad and some regime aides have homes, for early morning prayers marking the end of Ramadan. According to some analysts, the footage could have been pre-recorded. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and some residents reported shelling in the Malki neighborhood. General Firas al-Bitar, head of Tahrir al-Sham brigade, said there were two convoys, one of which was a decoy, so he could not verify if Assad was wounded. However, he said, "The attack rattled the regime, even if Assad was not hit." If the attack is confirmed, it would be the most direct against the Syrian president since the beginning of the nearly two and a half year conflict.

Headlines

  • The EU and United States have called for an end to the "dangerous stalemate" in Egypt as fears rise of a violent crack down on Muslim Brotherhood protests.
  • The U.S. questioned claims that Yemen foiled several al Qaeda plots and the Yemeni government stepped back from initial reports.
  • Iran has constructed a second rocket-launching site in Shahrud, which could be use for testing ballistic missiles, according to an analysis of satellite imagery by IHS Jane’s.
  • Lebanon has accused Israel of a border incursion after an explosion injured four Israeli soldiers near the border with Lebanon in an area known for landmines.

Arguments and Analysis

Marching in Circles: Egypt’s Dangerous Second Transition‘ (International Crisis Group)

"Nearly two-and-half years after Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow, Egypt is embarking on a transition in many ways disturbingly like the one it just experienced — only with different actors at the helm and far more fraught and violent. Polarisation between supporters and opponents of ousted President Mohamed Morsi is such that one can only fear more bloodshed; the military appears convinced it has a mandate to suppress demonstrators; the Muslim Brotherhood, aggrieved by what it sees as the unlawful overturn of its democratic mandate, seems persuaded it can recover by holding firm. A priority is to lower flames by releasing political prisoners — beginning with Morsi; respect speech and assembly rights; independently investigate killings; and for, all sides, avoid violence and provocation. This could pave the way for what has been missing since 2011: negotiating basic rules first, not rushing through divisive transition plans. An inclusive reconciliation process — notably of the Brotherhood and other Islamists — needs more than lip-service. It is a necessity for which the international community should press.

There are many reasons for the current crisis: the Morsi administration’s dismissive attitude toward its critics; its inability to mobilise the machinery of state to address basic concerns of an impatient citizenry; the opposition’s reliance on extra-institutional means to reverse unfavourable electoral outcomes; state institutions’ disruptive foray into partisan politics; and collective resort to street action to resolve differences. All these served as backdrop to the 30 June popular uprising and Morsi’s overthrow by the military three days later and have left prospects for a successful democratic transition far dimmer than in February 2011. Social and ideological divisions are more pronounced, violence more normalised, a seemingly revanchist security apparatus more emboldened and a winner-takes-all approach more alluring than ever. And all this takes place in a deteriorating fiscal, social and economic environment."

Iran’s proposed cabinet: The old guard is back in charge‘ (Ali Reza Eshraghi, CNN)

"It is only natural for the new president whose campaign slogan was ‘solving things with prudency’ to choose negotiation to strengthen the position of his camp instead of resorting to confrontation and exclusion. The boldest step Rouhani has taken is nominating Mohammad Javad Zarif as foreign minister. Zarif’s candidacy has been heavily opposed by the hardliners who insist this choice means that the new administration is serious about reducing tensions with the West, particularly with the U.S.

Some have claimed that Rouhani’s cabinet does not create strong hope of a political opening in Iran. But the reality is that the winds of change began blowing two months ago immediately after the election by the republication of two highly circulated reformist magazines that had been banned. And even though Mohammad Khatami was not allowed to attend the inauguration ceremony, his pictures have once again found their way to the front page of the newspapers.

However, it appears that the threat of the radicalization of the supporters of change is stronger for the new administration than the pressure from extremists. Two weeks ago, one of the most prominent anti-regime figures in the country, 81-year-old Ebrahim Yazdi — who has been sentenced to eight years in prison — stressed in an interview with a reformist paper that Rouhani’s administration should not be expected to perform miracles: ‘He has to arrange the melody of desired change with the increasing tolerance and endurance levels of the opponents of reform,’ he said."

–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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