EYE Suicide bombers of the world,
unite Pepe Escobar
is, literally, a bomb. What kind of wily actor
managed to get the precious intel needed to
penetrate, disrupt and destroy a meeting at the
National Security building in Damascus - killing
Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha and his deputy Assef
Shawkat, Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law?
What really happened is still murky.
Reuters said it was a suicide bomber working as a
bodyguard for Assad's inner circle. Agence
France-Presse reported it was a suicide bomber
detonating his belt. Beirut's Al-Akhbar said it
was a planted bomb. Same for Lebanon's Al-Manar TV
- detailing it was a 40-kilogram bomb.
who was it? The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)?
The MI6? Saudi intel? Turkish intel? Or that oh so
pliable ghost - al-Qaeda?
US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, five months ago, came up
with a non-denial denial
by in fact admitting that Washington was working
side by side with al-Qaeda in Syria supporting the
Not Exactly Free Syrian Army (FSA). 
And then there was Hillary "We came, we
saw, he died" Clinton only 10 days ago warning
there was still "a chance to save the Syrian state
from a catastrophic assault". Just like her
prophetic warning only a few days before Muammar
Gaddafi was captured, sodomized and executed, how
could she be certain of this "catastrophic
The FSA - out of its Turkey digs
- wasted no time in claiming responsibility; it
was an improvised explosive device (IED) planted
inside the room. There were no suicide bombers.
Yet the FSA have been lying through their teeth
for months. Anyway, FSA spokesman Qassim Saadedine
insists this is "the volcano" they promised to
awake a few days ago.
Much juicier, in
parallel, is the Liwa al-Islam ("The Brigade of
Islam") saying in its Facebook page that it
"targeted the cell called the crisis control room
in the capital of Damascus". That would be the
al-Qaeda-style connection. In this case, where are
they getting their intel from? Their good pals,
Time to round up those
canolis The Assad family saga does read
like a ready-made script for Godfather IV, as
evoked in this collective foreign-policy blog
discussion before the bombing.
brother-in-law, General Assef Shawkat, was a big
security honcho - widely viewed as the actual
ruler of Damascus. He was born out of a poor
Bedouin family who settled in Tartus - where
Russia keeps its naval base. Shawkat was the
leader of a special brigade during the 1982 Hama
massacre - whose victims were essentially from the
Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
Godfather Hafez al-Assad put him in charge of
protecting his daughter Bouchra. They sort of fell
in love with each other. Bouchra's brother, the
unruly Bassel al-Assad, was violently against it;
he had Shawkat, who he dismissed as a country
bumpkin, arrested at least four times. Bassel died
in 1994 in a car accident; conspiracy theorists
blamed it on Rifaat al-Assad, Hafez's brother, who
lived in France and who badly wanted to be Hafez's
Bouchra and Shawkat had to flee
to Rome to make the Assad family face the
inevitable. Patriarch Hafez ended up giving them
his blessing, and they finally got married. Hafez
then put Shawkat in charge of preparing Bashar to
become president. From 1998 onwards they got
really close; that's how Shawkat became the most
powerful man in Syria. Inevitably another blood
feud crept up - this time with Maher, Bashar's
younger brother, the commander of the 4th
Division, who even shot Shawkat; he had to recover
in a hospital in Paris.
have shown how Shawkat was very close to the
French security establishment.  They've also
shown that Shawkat was in charge of everything
related to US-Syria security exchanges. So Shawkat
was not exactly a persona non grata in Washington;
he was "one of our bastards" as well.
key point is that since becoming president in
2000, Bashar has always relied on Shawkat. He was
Bashar's Richelieu - even though he had no popular
base, nor even full support among the Alawite
And that may be a clue to what
comes next. Many at Assad's inner circle were
extremely antagonistic towards Shawkat. Now that
he's gone, this might eventually point to a white
coup in Damascus - with some of the inner circle
finally deciding to "decapitate" Assad as a means
of keeping their grip on the system. Sort of a
Syrian version of the Hosni Mubarak/SCAF (Egypt's
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) scenario.
I love the sound of an IED in the
morning It remains to be seen what Moscow
has to say about all this. Now all bets may be
off. It's crucial to examine what Russian
President Vladimir Putin will be telling Turkish
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip "Assad must go"
Erdogan - as in "don't start getting any funny
What seems to be certain is that
Assad's inner circle won't fold. On the contrary;
it will respond with all guns - and tanks -
blazing. It has already threatened to "confront
all forms of terrorism and chop any hand that
harms national security".
The FSA and
FSA-related gangs all rely on the same tactic;
they get entrenched in residential neighborhoods,
even in Damascus, and wait for the regime to
attack. The regime's tactic is monolithic; they
tend to level any area, even ultra-urban, wherever
the gangs are holed up. The result is inevitable;
enormous "collateral damage" and massive internal
displacement. This may start happening now in
Damascus itself - assuming the FSA can keep their
sleeper cells active, which they can't.
And then there's the newfound Western love
story with suicide bombers.
Rumsfeld's former Chief of Staff at the Pentagon,
Keith Urbahn, tweeted, "for once we should call a
suicide bomber - the one that took out a major
fraction of Assad's cabinet - a martyr."
It doesn't matter that he got it wrong -
it was not a suicide bomber but an IED. But there
we have it - straight from a neo-con horse's mouth
(and plenty other conservative and liberal mouths
If you use suicide bombers or
IEDs to kill government officials of a "rogue
state", you can get away with it; you're "one of
But don't even try to do it
against the Green Zone in Baghdad, or the Afghan
government in Kabul, or against any of our
"trusted" allies such as the House of Saud and
King Playstation in Jordan; then you're just an