Assad's daddy issues
February 16th, 2012
10:43 AM ET

Assad's daddy issues

By Adam Levine

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad will not leave or change course short of a coup, mostly because of the president's need to "emulate his father," U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday.

Clapper said the Syrian opposition, while mostly local, has been infiltrated by al Qaeda elements, maybe without the opposition knowing about it.

His comments about the situation in Syria were the most detailed assessment to date of the U.S. intelligence read on Syria, and came during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee about threats to the United States.

Last week, CNN's Barbara Starr reported that the United States had intercepted communications of operatives of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) who are now in Syria. U.S. intelligence suggests a small groups of AQI operatives have been "pushed into Syria" by their commanders and are able to carry out intelligence and reconnaissance against Syrian targets and subsequent bombing attacks.

In describing the opposition, Clapper said it is very fractured, "not a national movement," comprised of both those from the local population and "exiles and the like." The director of national intelligence said the Free Syrian Army is feuding internally about who will lead it and in "another disturbing phenomenon," has been infiltrated by al Qaeda. He said the Free Syrian Army is made up of disparate groups with no centralized "command and control."

"The opposition groups in many cases may not be aware they (al Qaeda operatives) are there," Clapper told the committee. He said recent bombings in Aleppo and Damascus against security and intelligence buildings "had all the earmarks of an al Qaeda-like attack."

"We believe that al Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria. Complicating all of this is - and this is another contrast with Libya, where we had one or two or three sites that had chemical warfare components - is a much more complex issue in Syria, which has an extensive network of such installations," Clapper observed.

Clapper said the al Qaeda infiltration will undoubtedly affect discussion about offering aid and assistance to the opposition.

The presence of al Qaeda and lack of clarity about what will happen ultimately in Syria has raised concerns about the country's extensive chemical weapons stockpiles.

The United States has increasing concerns about the security of Syria's chemical weapons, according to a defense official who did not want to be identified while discussing intelligence matters.

The official says while the US "continues to monitor the overall situation in Syria," there are "ongoing discussions specific to the location of, and security around, the various components of their chemical weapons program."

The official says United States is paying particular attention to the possibility of the weapons falling into the hands of extremists, in the event the government loses control of certain areas or splinters among itself. The cities of Hama, Homs, al-Safira and the port city of Latakia are all believed to house production facilities. There are additional storage sites and research centers around the country as well.

Clapper said Thursday there is particular concern should the al Assad regime fall.

"There would be kind of a vacuum that would lend itself to extremists operating in Syria, which is particularly troublesome in light of the large network of chemical warfare, CBW (chemical-biological weapons), weapon storage facilities and other related facilities that there are in Syria," Clapper said.

The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, said the extremists elements appear already to be in country.

"But what we haven't seen so far and what we have not assessed yet, is whether there would be what I would call, a clarion call to outsiders coming in, to augment. We haven't seen much of that up to this time, so basically the team that's on the ground is playing with what it has," Burgess said at the same hearing.

Recently, the head of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a statement calling for support of those rising in opposition of Assad.

In speaking of the regime, Clapper said there is little indication al-Assad will stop his crackdown on the opposition and at the moment all signs point to the regime holding together its support internally.

Clapper played psychologist in assessing al Assad's true motives for holding steady.

"Assad himself probably, because of his psychological need to emulate his father, sees no other option, but to continue to try to crush the opposition," Clapper said. Hafez al-Assad, President Bashar al-Assad's father and predecessor, ruled Syria for three decades before his death in 2000.

Clapper detailed how the U.S. intelligence community sees the state of Syria's regime. He said while there have been desertions, about "80% of their maneuver units (have taken part in) assaults on the civilian population."

The economy has taken "some hits" and is "going south," including spiking gas and food prices, Clapper said. There are also signs that senior members of al Assad's regime are making contingency plans to evacuate and move their families and finances.

Still, Clapper said, "to this point they've held together" and said a continued stalemate is likely.

"Short of a coup or something like that, Assad will hang in there and continue to do as he's done," including continued massacre of civilians, Clapper said.

Clapper also noted Iran has a presence in Syria.

Iran is working to prop up al Assad's government and is sending "help in terms of trainers, advisers and equipment, mostly riot suppression equipment," Clapper said.

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Filed under: Clapper • Intelligence • Middle East • ODNI • Senate Armed Services Committee • Syria
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  19. John "Aids Man" Holmes

    And just who doesn't have "daddy issues"?

    February 17, 2012 at 12:59 am | Reply
    • michelle

      I dont appreciate the snarky journalism here. Very unprofessional. Doesnt matter what point we are thinking about.

      February 17, 2012 at 9:18 am | Reply
    • EbolaZaire

      It is absurd to voice concerns over potential extremist infiltrators in Syria or propose arming anyone, when one observes the long history of popular support behind Syria's policy of not only encouraging, but funding and arming Hezbollah and Hamas. Irrespective of how Syria's present turmoil resolves itself, it will still be a country with no respect for human rights or freedom of religion and only antipathy for the west. Syria will continue to aid and arm extremists with the enthusiastic support of those who now ask for help in deposing Assad.

      February 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Reply
  20. RealityBuff

    In reference to al Qaeda "in Syria now", they've been there for years. But it's pretty obvious, if they are opposing al-Assad in Syria (with or without actions), maybe its because al_Assad has been pubicly blaming them for a lot of the killing ? /shrug

    February 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Reply
    • Santa Claus

      I will enjoy watching the al-Qaeda-supported rebels get mowed down like grass by the Syrian dictator's assassins, and I will enjoy (to a lesser extent) hearing of Assad's murderers getting blown up occasionally. Both sides deserve annihilation, so no one should intervene.

      Syria is no Libya. The Islamist element is stronger in Syria than in Libya. Assad is a buffer against this disease.

      We should not obstruct him in his efforts to eradicate al-Qaeda, although I feel sympathy for those rebels who truly are freedom fighters and not terrorists.

      February 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
      • Souri

        There's no Qaida in Syria no one in Syria will ever accept them.. If you knew Syrian people you would have never said that. It's all lies from the 'Syrian' regime and currently the US.. For the regime it is a justification to kill innocent people and for the US, maybe, a justification for an upcoming military action.

        February 18, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
      • GoodOleBoy

        I I believe that the majority of people in Syria, just like Iran are against fighting the world to destroy the infidels. One of the smartest people that I ever knew was from Syria and we talked many times about it. And I've had several friends from Iran. Of course, these were people in the US on student and work visas, so they may not be the "normal" citizenry, but they all want what everyone else have a job that pays, a safe home to raise their kids Its politics..theirs and ours, made by people out of touch with the people, who make the rules.

        February 18, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  21. mipolitic

    the only issue assad has is that obama has a very weak foreign policy which is supporting assad and many others in their crimes against common folks.

    February 16, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
    • Beelzabubba

      When Assad's daddy was murdering 20.000 of his own at Hom, back in '82, Ronnie Raygun was president.

      Just thought you'd like to know.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Reply

    thats because the military are corrupt

    February 16, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  23. Jonathan Pollard Soon to be FREE zionist Spy American born Traitor

    I know what I'm going to do.

    I'm going to give all my money to the dirty evil zionists and I'm going to stay stupid and in debt big-time! They like us goyim dumb and dumber. I'm going to do what I am told to believe. I'll watch CNN and Fox News daily for all the truths I need to know.

    I'm not going to think one i-otta about all the gossip that says the dirty evil zionists are behind all this fuss in Syria. Them, and the CIA.

    Nope, I ain't going to believe we're playing bumper-car-smash-up in the Middle East for our masters in zionland.

    Nope . . . I'm going to keep my big fat mouth shut. I ain't going to say noth'n!

    Just watch it all keep on going, Iran is next. Then Turkey. Then maybe Georgia?

    I just don't know, heck . . . maybe the whole world?


    Maybe our masters want the whole world.

    Probably . . .they's the chosen people an all . . . .seems rightly so they should be calling the shots.

    Heck, I ain't even going to think about it. Just keep my mouth shut. Stay stupid.

    Yep, onward zionism . . . to the bitter end.

    (light-bulb moment)


    In the end, there will be no more israel – it will get nuked off the planet.

    Set me free! Set the world free of the evil of zionism.

    Come on WW3 Baby!!


    February 16, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Reply
    • GoodOleBoy

      Dude, if you do not see radical Islam as a clear threat to the entire western way of life...i.e. Freedom of thought, then you are as wacky as you sound. I assure you that my day is not spent watching the media that was created by special interests and dictated to Fox and MSNBC. I read real news from all over the world and am also old enough to remember history. Israel IS in fact, not a perfect country. I am aware, more than most everyone, because I read actual documents and filings NOT in the news that Israel was basically created by one man, in the Balfour declaration. I am also aware that Israel created itself as a country ONE day before Jews were to be ejected by the predecessor to the UN. I am aware that Israel has ignored and defied EVERY UN mandate and resolution regarding palestine ever since it's inception. But I would much rather have Israelis there to fight a bit of the war against the psychopathic, murdering, radical Islamists that are a MUCH clearer threat to the WORLD, not just the U.S. If you want to hold that line, we should give America back to the Indians. That would be fine with you unless it's YOUR land that they want to give I'll bet. The fact is Israel won, Arabs lost. Such is war and country-building.

      So shut the fuck up, dickhead. lol

      February 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Reply
    • Norm

      Thanks, Buddy. You had the courage to say what many Americans think but are afraid to say.

      February 17, 2012 at 11:22 am | Reply
  24. Narline

    Wondering why Hezbollah seems silent in all of this.. or are they.. maybe they are supporting the army since they have close ties with Syrian govt.

    February 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Reply
    • Narline

      When i was in Damascus, i am sure i walked right by Hezbollah offices in the old town. Hezbollah is a close ally to the Syrian govt and doesnt want to see the govt fall. It seems these arab uprisings are creating govts worse than the original. I wonder if these rebels regret ever starting this fight. They should have known this would happen, given what happened in Hama in 1982...

      February 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Reply
    • GoodOleBoy

      I I am not sure but I believe that Hezbolla are Shia and so is Assad. I am not positive but I am 90% sure of it. Being Shia or Sunni matters a great deal to Muslims. I dunno..I'm just talking to waste time and will shut up now. lol You're welcome.

      February 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Reply
  25. Marco

    We can break the rules for once and kill the bastard

    February 16, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Reply
    • Narline

      all of a suddent they want our help ( USA). Then later, they blame us for invading. We have no right to go into Syria and no right to assassinate any leader. US would never go into Syria anyway due to the Arab League and what happened in afghanistan and iraq invasions. Will never happen and shouldnt happen.

      February 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Reply
    • Beelzabubba

      Buddy, we've been "breaking the rules" since 1947.

      February 16, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Reply
  26. GoodOleBoy

    II'm sure that Director Clappers statements about the psychological issues of Assad are based on analysis by people who are qualified to make such assessments. So the headline "Dr" Clapper is a bit antagonistic. As a layman, I would suggest that he is like every other person in absolute power. He does not want to let it go. He surely believes that he is the only one capable enough to make decisions about his country and is definitely surrounded by yes men who feed his psychopathy.
    Damn I miss covert assassinations.

    February 16, 2012 at 11:07 am | Reply
    • Beelzabubba

      Yeah, too bad we couldn't be bothered taking out his psycho dad after the Hama massacre of approx. 20,000 civilians back in '82.

      February 16, 2012 at 11:24 am | Reply
      • GoodOleBoy

        II hear that. I'm not sure if it was Carter or Ford that changed the rules on covertly killing foreign leaders. But think of how much time, money and how many lives could have been saved already by a single shot...or a ricin pellet in the ass. Freakin liberals. "OH MY GOD! We can't KILL someone!!". We'll get into long, drawn out wars that bleed our economy, divide our nation as a people and kill our young soldiers instead.

        February 16, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
      • Beelzabubba

        Well, guys did get taken out under JFK's & LBJ's watch. Not to mention the numerous attempts on Castro. Keep in mind the CIA were often taken to task by the press in the 70s' – due to their ineptitude.

        February 16, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
      • JH

        It was eventually Ford who wrote the stuff in, however it wasn't a matter of CIA ineptitude. Sure, there were some failed initiatives, but those were more a matter of overreaching and poor judgement calls in which actions to undertake. IT ended up being a very liberal Senator named Otis Pike who tried to "expose the CIA" actions and clamp down on their reach. By the end of the Pike Committee investigation, the Pike Committee members, including Otis Pike himself, admitted that in their opinion the CIA acted pretty responsibly and prudently, and that the majority of the ill conceived plots attributed to the agency were the result of the White House direction, despite CIA objections and advice.

        February 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
      • GoodOleBoy

        Thank you. Now that you have mentioned it, I do recall some of that...which is generally the way my brain operates in my old age. I remember soon as someone mentions it. lol

        We should use the covert capability that I'm sure we still have to nip these brutal dictators in the bud. And also do more hearts & minds BEFORE we have to go into a defeated country and rebuild it from scratch at U.S. taxpayers expense.

        Thank you for an intelligent and informed post. I may try it sometime.

        February 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  27. Beelzabubba

    Love that mustache. Tres Hitler, don't you think?

    February 16, 2012 at 10:49 am | Reply
    • RealityBuff

      Hahahah, your right, now that you mention it. He looks just like him, spooky ?

      February 16, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Reply

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