Nisreen El-Shamayleh on the Damascus blast Aljazeera English 07/18/2012:
Independent's Robert Fisk on the Damascus blast Aljazeera English 07/18/2012:
Nicholas Blanford reports for the Christian Science Monitor (Syrian rebels' confidence grows after bombing hits Assad's inner circle 07/18/2012):
... the killing of Assef Shawkat, Assad’s brother-in-law, deputy defense minister and key pillar in the Alawite-dominated regime, suggests that no one in the regime is immune from the potential reach of the armed opposition, a grim fact that must send a shudder up the collective spine of the Syrian leadership. ...Russian support for the regime is still important, as Fisk discusses in the interview above.
Other than Shawkat, those killed included Daoud Rajha, the defense minister, and Hassan Turkmani, a vice presidential aide and former defense minister. Ibrahim Shaar, the interior minister, was wounded, but Syrian authorities said he is in stable condition. ...
Is this a turning point in the 17-month uprising against the Assad regime? The headline-grabbing offensive in Damascus and the multiple assassinations of top officials in a single blow suggest it could be. The momentum does appear to be on the side of the armed opposition, which has slowly gained traction in recent months thanks to an influx of funds, equipment, arms, and ammunition from external sponsors. Defections within the regular Syrian Army, mainly among Sunnis, have increased and include senior officers, sapping the morale of those soldiers who continue to serve and placing more pressure on key, mainly Alawite, loyalist units.
On the other hand, those key military units remain loyal and possibly more determined because of the perception among Alawites, who make up about 12 percent of Syria's population, that they face an existential threat from the challenge to their rule mounted by the majority Sunnis. [my emphasis]
Tags: arab awakening, syria