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memri
February 3, 2017 No.
6770

Pro-Opposition Syrian Journalist In Tweets And Posts: Russian Forces Thwarted Maher Al-Assad's Iran-Backed Coup Attempt

According to recent unconfirmed reports, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is gravely ill,[1] and a recent Iranian-backed coup attempt by his brother, Maher Al-Assad, has been thwarted by Russian forces.

One source of these reports is the social media accounts of Syrian journalist Feras Karam, who writes for the Syrian oppositionist website Orient News. Karam even reported that Alawite officials and officers have split into two camps – those supporting Iran and those supporting Russia – and members of each camp have been assassinated by members of the other. He reported further that there have been mutual assassinations between the two camps. Furthermore, according to Karam, there has also been wide-scale deployment of Russian forces in Damascus to stop Iranian incursions into several neighborhoods in the city.

Following is a review of Karam's tweets and posts:


Maher Al-Assad (image: english.alarabiya.net)

Karam's account of the alleged dramatic events began on January 28, 2017, when he described "increased deployment of the Russian military police on the main streets of Damascus, around the Russian Embassy, the presidential palace, and the general staff headquarters."[2]

He later tweeted: "Reports that the commander of the Russian air base at Khmeimim in Rif Al-Latakia was moved to the Russian embassy in the capital of Damascus."[3]

The next day, Karam reported that the fourth division in Damascus, which is commanded by Bashar Al-Assad's brother Maher, was on high alert, as was the Air Force's intelligence directorate.[4] He also reported that military personnel and influential members of the Alawite community had split into two groups – those who support Russia, and those who support Iran – and that "Iranian hands have carried out a series of assassinations of high-ranking officers in Assad's forces and [other] important individuals because of their association with Russians in Syria."[5]

According to Karam, this series of assassinations in Latakia and Damascus is linked to "future Russian security changes."[6] He further claimed that in recent days "over six high-ranking officers from the Syrian coastal region have been killed under suspicious circumstances, and several figures close to the Russians were also killed."[7]

On January 30, Karam reported that, probably as part of the split in the Alawite community, "Maher Al-Assad is working with the Iranians to try to take over the military and security apparatus in Damascus,"[8] but that the Russians had thwarted the January 28 coup attempt.[9] He also claimed that Russian forces had prevented Iranian incursions into "11 neighborhoods and streets, and eight Syrian military administrations, including Almaza Air Base."[10]


Report on the attempted coup (Facebook.com/feraskaram100, January 30, 2017)

 

Tweets on coordination between Maher Al-Assad and Iran (Twitter.com/feraskaram01, January 30, 2017)

 


[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6763, Reports In Arab Media: Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad Is Gravely Ill, January 30, 2017.

[2] Twitter.com/feraskaram01, January 28, 2017. The Saudi daily Al-Watan also reported that Russian military police was deployed around the presidential palace and general staff headquarters. Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), January 30, 2017.

[3] Twitter.com/feraskaram01, January 28, 2017.

[4] Twitter.com/feraskaram01, January 29, 2017.

[5] Twitter.com/feraskaram01, January 29, 2017.

[6] Facebook.com/feraskaram100, January 29, 2017.

[7] Twitter.com/feraskaram01, January 29, 2017. A Syrian oppositionist website reported on these assassinations as well. Baladi-news.com, January 30, 2017.

[8] Twitter.com/feraskaram01, January 30, 2017.

[9] Facebook.com/feraskaram100, January 30, 2017; Twitter.com/feraskaram01, January 30, 2017.

[10] Twitter.com/Feraskaram01, January 31, 2017.