Established by Fathi Ibrahim Bayoud 2005 - Homs

Assef Shawkat: hostage of Syria's ruling family

Zaman Al Wasl Leaks | 2017-04-02 22:36:18
Assef Shawkat: hostage of Syria's ruling family

(Zaman Al Wasl)-  Assef Shawkat, once Syria's most powerful man and ruling family's son-in-law, remained hostage to the Assad family’s decision till his death in Damascus bomb attack on July 18, 2012.

Shawkat is one of the few figures in Syrian contemporary history whose life as an authoritarian witnessed so many ups and downs due to his relationship with the al-Assad family.

He broke many boundaries in his ascendance. He managed despite his non-Alawite background and his family lacking a solid ground in the military to marry Hafez al-Assad’s only daughter. He succeeded in this when many others such as Hazem al-Shihabi, the son of the late chief of staff Hikmat al-Shihabi, and Mohsen Bilal, Hafez al-Assad’s personal physician and a member of a prominent Alawite family, failed.

In his proximity to the family, Assef entered a phase where he went from being someone close to Hafez al-Assad and his daughter Bushra to being an outcast and besieged. Basil al-Assad disapproved of Assef marrying Bushra and prohibited any proximity between the two. He supposedly said that the only way the two would marry was over “his dead body.” The saying proved true as the two eventually married following Basil’s death in a mysterious car accident in the beginning of 1994.

The intelligence archive obtained by Zaman al-Wasl offers insight into the precarious position Shawkat occupied. His name was included on a travel ban list based on a Military Intelligence memorandum in 1993. The memorandum is clearly one of Basil’s instructions in his opposition to Shawkat and his sister. Ironically, it is the very same institution which Shawkat climbed the ranks of until he became the head of Military Intelligence.

The intelligence memorandum reveals personal data about Assef Shawkat. It names him as the son of Mahmud and Khadija, born in 1950, in Tlalkh (Homs countryside). The intelligence document proves that his family moved to the town of al-Madhalah in the countryside of Tartus rather than being from the area. His non-Alawite origin adds further uniqueness to his rise and proximity to the ruling al-Assad family.

-The Chinese Vase-

For the nearly two decades of his close relationship with the al-Assad family, and as their only brother-in-law, Assef’s name rang out like a tap on a Chinese vase. Any time a huge intelligence operation or transaction was reported or the smell of widespread corruption erupted, Shawkat was involved. From his involvement in the Iraq file (oil smuggling, confiscating the former regime’s money, allowing the infiltration of the fighters, supporting calls for jihad in Iraq, bringing together and perhaps recruiting some of the sheikhs) to his connections with Western intelligence services and cooperation with them under the cover of ‘Combating Terrorism’.

 In addition to these was his role in the Lebanese file. This file demonstrated Shawkat’s talents especially his role in the assassination former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri twice, the first when the regime in Syria launched a campaign of defamation and treachery against Hariri, and the second when Hariri was killed with 1,000 kilograms of explosives.

Following the assassination, Bashar’s approval for Shawkat increased and Shawkat needed Bashar’s support to break the isolation cordon surrounding him. The situation changed once more with the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, a commander in the Hezbollah militia, in central Damascus in February 2008. Shawkat was accused of negligence in implementing the necessary surveillance and protection measures to ensure Mughniyeh’s security, or of being a conspirator in his assassination.

It is interesting to note that the intelligence archive includes a memorandum issued by the Military Intelligence division for the arrest of Imad Fayez Mughniyeh. The Military Intelligence was Assef Shawkat’s playground and the apparatus remained heavily influenced by him even after his departure- or removal- as head of the Military Intelligence in 2009. Regardless of the motivations underlying an arrest warrant for one of Iran's main people in the region, the memorandum demonstrates the regime’s extraordinary ability to walk the thin line between alliance and opposition. The document reveals how the regime conducted politically and financially profitable sales and purchase deals. These qualities and abilities are passed on by senior regime intelligence officers until they are die and their secrets are buried with them.

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