While he continues to channel resolve to remain in power, the two-year-old civil war appears to be taking a toll on Syrian President Bashar Assad, with recent accounts from inside the Syrian regime depicting him as isolated and fearful for his safety.
With his government crumbling around him, Assad all but vanished from public view in recent weeks, giving no interviews or speeches and making no live appearances on state television. He has restricted contacts to a small circle of family members and confidantes, the Washington Post reported Saturday .
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According to the report, Syrian media and activist accounts saw the strongman as increasing his security detail, moving to a different bedroom each night and bolstering controls over food preparation, evidently to foil assassinations. The reports could not be independently verified.
Citing accounts from defectors that could not be confirmed, Middle Eastern intelligence officials say Assad no longer goes outdoors during daylight hours, for fear of becoming the target of a sniper’s bullet or other fire.
Rebels training in Idlib (Photo: AP)
“His movements suggest a constant state of fear,” a Middle Eastern official told the Post on the condition of anonymity.
Nevertheless, Assad continues to convey resolve to stay in power. In his last televised interview early last month, the president vowed to "live and die" in Syria.
More recently, he showed little willingness to compromise during meetings with UN officials who traveled to Damascus this week to discuss a transitional government. The Washington Post cited officials privy to the meetings as saying that Assad appeared poised and confident.
Efforts to find a negotiated solution to a 21-month-old war that has killed some 45,000 people have floundered, with the opposition, buoyed by rebel military advances, demanding that Assad be excluded from power before any talks can proceed.
“Things appear to be moving very quickly,” a UN-based official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Post. “Events on the ground might sort things out before things are sorted out in the council or in capitals.”
But Assad wasn't the only one under pressure over the civil war in his country. A cousin of his wife, Asma Assad, allegedly blasted the high-profile spouse for her indifference the Syrians' plight.
In a letter titled “You who used to be my cousin,” the relative, Rasha al-Akhras, reportedly criticized Asma Assad for the “silent support” she had offered her husband. She further suggested that while Homs residents are being pounded, the Syrian first lady is busy planning a holiday party. The condemning message was widely circulated on the Internet.
Meanwhile, the international mediator touting a peace plan for Syria warned on Saturday of "hell" if the warring sides shun talks.
UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said in Moscow that responsible people inside and outside Syria should "help the Syrians stop their descent into more and more bloodshed, into more and more chaos and perhaps a failed state."
According to CNN, at least 392 people were killed in clashes on Saturday. The toll includes 201 people who a captured Syrian soldier said had been executed in Deir Balbah, outside of Homs, after Syrian forces won a battle there, the opposition's Local Coordination Committees said.
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