Report: Syrian general pushing Assad toward war

Tuesday, August 14, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

The head of Syria's military intelligence is pressing President Bashar Assad to initiate hostilities with Israel as early as next month, according to Arab officials from Lebanon and Syria.

General Asef Shawkat, who is also Assad's brother-in-law, has been working hard to convince the Syrian leader that “there is no chance of a political channel to return the Golan Heights,” a Lebanese official told Israel's Yediot Ahronot on condition of anonymity.

Shawkat reportedly informed Assad that Syria would not have to actually win a war with Israel, but just inflict enough damage on its cities by means of large-scale missile attacks to force the Israelis to the negotiating table, where Damascus would then be in a good position to regain control of the Golan.

A Syrian official who recently fled his homeland after getting on Shawkat's bad side told Yediot that “the general is controlling the president by sidelining his aides, and is exploiting Bashar's unstable moods.”

Further motivation for Shawkat seeking a war is the fact that he has been directly implicated in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Assad has reportedly been considering turning Shawkat over to an international tribunal into the murder in order to save his own neck.

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