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Iranian militia leader appears in video in Daraa
[ENGLISH.ALARABIYA.NET] In a new video published by Iranian militias on social media, the commander of the Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigade that is ideologically and logistically tied to Iran, Maher Ajeeb Jazza appeared in numerous villages in Daraa.

On its Facebook account, the of “Zulfiqar Brigade” militia said on Sunday they, along with the Syrian regime’s army, are now in Tafs and Dael.

Several pictures of Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade’s commander, as well as members of the Republican Guard, were published.

Iran established the Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade at the end of 2012 and appointed Maher Ajeeb Jazza, a Syrian citizen, as its leader. Jazza comes from a village with a Shiite majority called "Nabil" that are tied to the city of Aleppo.

In the video, sectarian slogans that Iran usually propagates to push its militias to go to Syria appeared on Jazza’s arm.

The Assad regime changed the name of the organization, initially called Abu al-Fadl Brigade, to “The Republican Guard- Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade.”

The regime did the same with another brigade, known as “Imam Hussain Brigade,” which merged with Assad’s army and battles under the fourth division headed by Major General Maher al-Assad.

The Abu al-Fadl Brigade has its headquarters in the “Sayeda Zeinab” district in the capital Damascus, where the majority of the "Iranian" militias are headquartered in Syria.

The militia’s leader said that the Brigade was founded to defend “the shrine of Sayeda Zeinab,” which has become the motto that Iran has spread to its militias in Syria.

Before the Assad regime launched its military operation in Daraa, Mojtaba Ferdosipour, Iran’s ambassador to Jordan, said that Iran does not have military forces in southern Syria.

The military operation in Daraa has led to extensive destruction and left a large number of people dead and injured, in addition to displacing more than 200 thousand civilians who fled the war.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged foreign parties to withdraw from southern Syria. But Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, responded by saying “there is no power in the world,” besides Bashar al-Assad, that could get Iran out of Syrian.

Maher Al-Assad Named Commander of the Syrian Army’s elite 4th Mechanized Division
[AAWSAT] Syrians were shocked with the news of appointing Maher al-Assad, brother of Bashir al-Assad, commander of the Syrian Army’s elite 4th Mechanized Division, as revealed by Russia Today Website and other pro-regime sites.

What caused the shock is that the name of Maher al-Assad has been associated with the 4th Mechanized Division as the commander but it turned out that he was the commander of battalion 42 in the 4th Mechanized Division.

This coincided with news that the Tiger Forces, led by Colonel Suheil al-Hassan, moved from Russia towards the south of Damascus to lead military operations launched by the regime forces there. These operations actually failed after one week of bombarding towns in the south of the capital.

Maher al-Assad, born in 1967, studied mechanical engineering at Damascus University before he enrolled in the military academy then started serving at the 4th division. He was promoted in the summer of the past year.

The 4th Mechanized Division was formed in 1984 from the Defense Companies, established by Rifaat al-Assad, brother of deceased former president Hafez al-Assad, in 1982. Defense Companies had a key role in Hama incidents, back then.

After the failure of Rifaat al-Assad coup over his brother, the Defense Companies were merged with the regime army and together were called the 4th Mechanized Division. It has now become one of the major divisions with around 15,000 members.

Opposing parties attribute the most bloody raids in Damascus countryside and Daraa in the beguiling of the revolution to the 4th Mechanized Division.

Syrian Army’s most elite brigade heads from Damascus to Daraa city
[ALMASDARNEWS] Relocated from the Syrian capital, a large convoy of Syrian Arab Army (SAA) reinforcements arrived in the provincical capital of Daraa on Thursday, representing the third batch of troops from the 4th Mechachanized Division to arrive in the southern city over the week.

The 42nd Brigade ‐ also known as the Ghaith Forces ‐ brought with them dozens of so-called ’Adra T-72’ tanks and scores of elephant rockets mounted on pickup trucks:

The 42nd Brigade of the 4th Mechanized Division is considered the strongest in the SAA and was previously commanded by Maher al-Assad himself, the younger brother of the Syrian President.

This seasoned brigade is currently led by Colonel Ghiath Dalleh who singlehandedly retook half a dozen rebel pockets around Damascus in the past year alone.

With overwhelming manpower and weaponry in the process of deployment in Daraa city, the SAA is expected to unleash a huge ground offensive on the al-Manshiyah and Deraa al-Balaad neighborhoods, both of which were bombarded by Syrian warplanes on Thursday.

The coming campaign in Daraa represents the 42nd Brigade’s first military operations outside the Syrian capital.

400 officers defected Syrian army last January, mostly high ranks: leaked list
[EN.ZAMANALWSL.NET] Zaman al-Wasl has obtained an exclusive list of members defected from the regime's forces, soldiers and non-commissioned officers, were reported in the beginning of this year. Surprisingly, dozens of the defected members were from areas of complete sectarian loyalty to the Syrian regime.

The other warning point of the new lists of is that many of the defected members were from the elite groups like the elite republican guards and the defence brigades and special forces, who were the carefully selected, armed and trained groups, and their commanders were very trusted and close to Bashar and Maher al-Assad.

The lists contained 1017 names, defected from different military battalions, brigades and troops, dozens of them from the Alawite sect.

Moreover, many of defected names were of prominent and well known Alawite families and like Khadour, Slitin, Omran, Reedi, Salhab, Wasouf, Jdid, Saqer, Hmesheh and Rahija, and others.

The first list showed that 422 members defected from the regime forces, in January 2015, 73 sergeant and first sergeant, 46 corporal, making about 30% of all defected members, at 13 one daily average, the highest number was in 4th January at 33 member, almost no day passed without defection, that refutes the regime's claims that defections has become rare and at individual bases.

Defection among the elite republican guard despite the privileges they have, and the military intelligence, who are responsible to observe soldiers and officers and prevent any defection attempt, gives an idea about the weakness and cracks in within the Syrian regime.

Another serious issue the lists have shown that 70 members have defected with their arms, indicting the level of drainage in the regime forces at military and human levels.
However the most serious piece of information of the recent list of defected members was the ability to know the bases of defected members.

Details of defection numbers of the Elite Units and the Republican guard in January 2015:

Troop 101 and troop 102 of the Republican Guard, 33 members and 16 members respectively.

62 members defected from troop 104, and 40 members of troop 105, the strongest troop of the elite republican guard, and its commander, Monaf Tlas, the close friend of al-Assad defected in 2012.

Troop 106 had 42 members reported as defected. Troop 124 of Elite Republican Guards had 20 defected members, while 20 members left troop 47 of the special forces.

Meet Assad's brother, the muscle behind the Syrian throne
[Al Ahram] Maher al-Assad asked his own grade-school daughter what she had planned to do in class that day. The girl answered her father with trademark fierceness of Syria's ruling family. "Break heads, is what she answered him," his sister-in-law Majd Jadan told Rooters from exile in the United States. "He even taught his little kids brutality."

Jadan fled to America two years ago, after an argument with Maher, younger brother of Hereditary President-for-Life Bashir Pencilneck al-Assad
Before going into the family business Pencilneck was an eye doctor...
and the man most Syrians say is the enforcer of the Assad clan's grip on Syria.

She wasn't the first member of the family to leave in a hurry: brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, who was killed in a kaboom in Damascus
...Home to a staggering array of terrorist organizations...
on Wednesday, once had to be flown to La Belle France for lifesaving treatment after Maher shot him.

With rebels closing in on Damascus 16 months into an uprising against the Assad family's four decades of iron-fisted rule, the world's attention is focused on Bashir al-Assad's inner circle, where none is more influential than brother Maher.

Syria's second most powerful man almost never appears in public, but those who have had dealings with him paint a picture of a man of supreme self confidence, who treats his brother's country like family property.

A Syrian businessman who accepted a dinner invitation from Maher before the revolt against the family's rule erupted 16 months ago says Maher took him with a group of French and Syrian executives to a restaurant on a mountain overlooking Damascus.

All the staff who served them were women, rare in the conservative country.

"The restaurant seemed open only to us. I was looking in astonishment because we are not used to seeing waitresses in Syria. Maher leaned toward me and said in front of everyone something to the effect that I can chose any waitress I like to take home," said the businessman, on condition of anonymity.

"He does not shy away from showing how base he is."

Maher al-Assad does not give interviews and efforts to contact him for comment on this story were not successful.

Opponents of the Assad family revile him as the most ruthless of a "family council" trying to survive the revolt against the iron-fisted dynastic rule founded by their late patriarch, Hafez al-Assad.

During the crackdown against the anti-Assad revolt, Maher has solidified his violent reputation as the leader of core military units drawn mainly from the family's Alawite sect that have used tanks and artillery to lay waste to swathes of Sunni Mohammedan areas.

At 44, he is two years younger than Bashar. He commands the Fourth Armoured Division and is de facto head of the Republican Guard - praetorian units set up to defend the family's seat of power in Damascus.

The family council, aided by top secret police and intelligence operatives, comprises Bashar, Maher, their now slain brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, and Mohammad Makhlouf, their uncle from the side of their mother Anisa.

All are now on various U.S. or European sanctions lists.

Jadan describes her brother-in-law as a stubborn and ruthless man who beats his junior aides. Athletic and introverted, he is careful about what he eats and listens more than he speaks.

"He reads but is not cultured and his English is weak," Jadan said. "When he is convinced of something, nothing changes his mind, even when he is presented with evidence to the contrary."

A rare photo of Maher taken during his father's funeral on a scorching June day in 2000 shows him standing between Bashar and Shawkat, all looking grim in dark suits and sunglasses.

An undated video on YouTube shows him on a hunting trip, posing with dead birds on his 4x4. In 1999, Maher went for bigger game, shooting brother-in-law Shawkat during an argument. Shawkat had to be flown to La Belle France to save his life, according to diplomats.

"Disciplined use of violence by a dictator is an immoral but a rational choice," said W. Andrew Terrill, Middle East expert at the U.S. Army War College. "When you lose control of the emotions and shoot your sister's husband in a dispute, that's pretty stunning."

"I don't know how much worse you have to be to consolidate a reputation for violence," Terrill said.

When Hafez died in 2000 and western-trained ophthalmologist Bashar became president, control of the military went to Maher, an engineer who had lived all his life in Syria.

Opposition sources say the only serious operation he was directly involved in was when the Fourth Division helped put down a mutiny in the notorious Saidnaya prison north of Damascus in 2008, killing an estimated 170 unarmed political prisoners.

Lacking experience, Maher relies on better trained officers around him, defectors said. But even his vaunted Fourth Armoured Division has failed to put down the revolt that began last year.

"Maher is not being effective. These are not the results of a very effective commander," Terrill said. "He has been doing other stuff with his life, including various businesses ... I don't know if he has actually done a lot that proves his military competence."

His business dealings in neighbouring Leb came under scrutiny when a bank collapsed there in 2003 and authorities opened a money laundering investigation that implicated a number of Syrian officials and Assad family associates.

Two senior Lebanese officials told Rooters that assassinated statesman Rafik al-Hariri had sought to have the investigation examine Maher's affairs at the time Hariri was killed in 2005.

Militarily, Maher's growing role has drawn comparisons with the 1980s when Hafez relied on the Defence Brigades, the forerunner of the Fourth Division, then led by his brother Rifaat, to crush secular and Islamist threats.

That crackdown killed tens of thousands of people, according to human rights
...which are usually entirely different from personal liberty...
lawyers who documented the era of repression.

"It is the 1980s all over again. But the regime, incredibly, is more savage this time. Another difference is that Bashar and Maher think they are winning, but they are not," said one Western diplomat who served until recently in Damascus.

Syrian Opposition Reports Deputy Defense Minister Killed
Syrian opposition officials in London reported that Deputy Minister of Defense of Syria Assef Shawkat, husband of Bushra Assad was killed during an argument with his aide General Ali Mamlouk.
"Yer mustache!"
"Yer mother's mustache!"
"I show my shoes at youse!"
"Oh yeah? I fills youse with lead!!" [BLAM] [BLAM] [BLAMMITY BLAM]
"Eeek! I am undone!" [THUNK] "Rosebud!" [gasp] [rattle] [twitch]

According to the report, which has yet to be confirmed by official sources, Shawkat was secretly rushed to hospital in Damascus where he died of his wounds. Other sources claim he's in a coma.
General Assef Shawkat is the deputy Minister of Defense of Syria since September 2011. He is married to Bashar Assad's sister Bushra and is from the Sunni sect. He is a member of President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle. Since the appointment of General Dawoud Rajiha to head the Ministry of Defense, Shawkat is an important figure in the Ministry of Defense, though the army is under the de facto control of Maher al-Assad, the president's brother.
So did Assef decide to join the rebels, or was he playing a double game and got caught, or did Pencilneck just want to shorten the lines of communication?

Paris Slams Assad Remarks: He Will Not Escape Justice
[An Nahar] Embattled Syrian Hereditary President-for-Life Bashir Pencilneck al-Assad
Supressor of the Damascenes...
"will not escape justice," the French foreign ministry stressed Thursday.

"La Belle France does not give any credibility to Bashir al-Assad's provocative statements, which totally contradict with the fact that acts of repression and violence against the Syrian people have continued unabated," ministry front man Bernard Valero told news hounds, referring to Assad's recent interview with ABC News.

"His people and the international community have put him on trial, and like all those responsible for the repression he must be held accountable for the crimes being committed in Syria since months," Valero added, slamming Damascus
...Capital of the last overtly fascist regime in the world...
' "rejection" to respond to the demands of the Arab League
...an organization of Arabic-speaking states with 22 member countries and four observers. The League tries to achieve Arab consensus on issues, which usually leaves them doing nothing but a bit of grimacing and mustache cursing...
and the international community.

In a rare interview with Western media, Assad said that he was not responsible for the nine months of bloodshed and drew a distinction between himself and the military -- an assertion that the United States called "ludicrous."

"We don't kill our people," Assad told U.S. network ABC. "No government in the world kills its people, unless it's led by a crazy person."

"There was no command to kill or be brutal," Assad told veteran ABC News interviewer Barbara Walters.

Assad said that security forces belonged to "the government" and not him personally.

"I don't own them. I'm president. I don't own the country. So they are not my forces," Assad said.

Assad's family has ruled Syria with an iron fist for four decades. Assad's brother, Lieutenant Colonel Maher al-Assad, heads the army's Fourth Division, which oversees the capital as well as the elite Republican Guard.

The United Nations
...aka the Oyster Bay Chowder and Marching Society...
estimates that more than 4,000 people have died as Syria cracks down on protesters, who have emerged as the greatest challenge yet to Assad amid a wave of uprisings in the Arab world that have toppled authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

Assad dismissed the corpse count, saying: "Who said that the United Nations is a credible institution?"

"Most of the people that have been killed are supporters of the government, not the vice versa," Assad said in English, giving a figure of 1,100 dead soldiers and police.

U.S. State Department front man Mark Toner dared Assad to back up his assertions by letting in international observers and media, saying that there was a "clear campaign against peaceful protesters."

"It either says that he's completely lost any power that he had within Syria, that he's simply a tool or that he's completely disconnected with reality," Toner told news hounds Wednesday.

"It's either disconnection, disregard or, as he said, crazy. I don't know," Toner said.

Toner, reacting a day earlier to excerpts of the interview, called Assad's denial of responsibility "ludicrous," triggering a rebuke from Syria's foreign ministry which accused him of distorting the remarks.

Syria has come under growing international pressure, with Arab nations and Turkey joining Western powers in pursuing sanctions against Assad.

The Arab League has suspended Syria and has threatened new sanctions if Assad does not allow in observers. Syria initially refused but at the last minute offered to let in monitors in return for an end to sanctions.

The United States and La Belle France on Tuesday sent their ambassadors back to Syria in hopes that they can shine light on the violence and show solidarity with protesters, weeks after the envoys were pulled out due to safety concerns.


Not responsible for deaths: Assad
[Emirates 24/7] Syrian Hereditary President-for-Life Bashir Pencilneck al-Assad
Before going into the family business Pencilneck was an eye doctor...
denies he is responsible for the killing of thousands of protesters, telling a US news hound he was not in charge of the forces behind the crackdown, the network said Tuesday.
"It wuz... ummm... somebody else."
In a rare interview, Assad spoke Monday to ABC News veteran journalist Barbara Walters in a bid to defend himself amid growing global condemnation of the nine-month-old crackdown which the UN says has killed 4,000 people.

ABC News plans to air the interview on Wednesday but a news hound for the network, seeking US reaction at a State Department briefing, quoted Assad as saying: "I'm president. I don't own the country, so they're not my forces."

"There's a difference between having a policy to crack down and between having some mistakes committed by some officials. There is a big difference," the news hound quoted Assad as saying.

Reacting to the excerpt, State Department front man Mark Toner criticized Assad and said he has had multiple opportunities to end the violence.

"I find it ludicrous that he is attempting to hide behind some sort of shell game (and) claim that he doesn't exercise authority in his own country," Toner told the briefing.

"There's just no indication that he's doing anything other than cracking down in the most brutal fashion on a peaceful opposition movement," Toner said.

Assad's family has ruled Syria with an iron fist for four decades. Assad's brother, Lieutenant Colonel Maher al-Assad, heads the army's Fourth Division which oversees the capital as well as the elite Republican Guard.

Syria has come under growing pressure from the United States, European Union
...the successor to the Holy Roman Empire, only without the Hapsburgs and the nifty uniforms and the dancing...
, Arab League
...an organization of Arabic-speaking states with 22 member countries and four observers. The League tries to achieve Arab consensus on issues, which usually leaves them doing nothing but a bit of grimacing and mustache cursing...
and non-Arab Turkey to stop the violence.

The Arab League has threatened to impose new sanctions unless Syria lets in monitors. In a letter late Sunday, Assad's regime said it will allow monitors but only if conditions are met.

The United States and La Belle France on Tuesday sent their ambassadors back to Syria, hoping that they will help shed a light on the violence and show solidarity with protesters after being pulled out due to security concerns.

Syria accuses "armed terrorist groups" of fueling the unrest, which comes amid a wave of street protests across the Arab world this year that have toppled authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

ABC News said that it was Assad's first interview to US media since Syria launched the crackdown in March.

Walters, 82, is known for interviews that seek to probe high-profile figures' personal sides. She is a creator of the popular ABC News morning show "The View," which features a panel of women hosts.

Syria Ignores Arab Deadline, Faces New Sanctions
[An Nahar] Syria faced new sanctions after flouting Sunday an Arab League
...an organization of Arabic-speaking states with 22 member countries and four observers. The League tries to achieve Arab consensus on issues, which usually leaves them doing nothing but a bit of grimacing and mustache cursing...
deadline to accept observers to monitor the unrest sweeping the country, which the U.N. says has killed more than 4,000 people.

A senior Qatari official said Damascus
...Home to a staggering array of terrorist organizations...
had asked for "new clarifications and further amendments to be made to the protocol which was proposed" to cover the deployment of the observer mission.

But the Arab ministers had "refused."

The Qatari official said, however, that if Syrian officials "still want to sign, they can come tomorrow to Cairo."

The Arab League ministerial committee late on Saturday gave Damascus until Sunday to allow an observer mission into the country and thereby avoid further sanctions.

The meeting in Doha listed 19 Syrian officials it said would be banned from travel to Arab countries and whose assets would be frozen by those states.

The panel also called for an embargo on the sale of Arab arms to Syria and cut by half the number of Arab flights into and out of Syria with effect from December 15.

The national carrier Syrian Air will be affected by the flight reductions, while among the 19 officials banned from travel to Arab countries are the defense and interior ministers and other top intelligence officials.

Hereditary President-for-Life Bashir Pencilneck al-Assad
Light of the Alawites...
's brother, General Maher al-Assad, who heads the feared Fourth Armored Division, and his cousin Rami Makhlouf, a telecommunications tycoon, are also among those banned from travel.

The Arab panel also tasked a committee with drawing up a list of Syrian businessmen involved in financing the repression, ahead of slapping them with sanctions.

"This is a message to businessmen who have kept silent, so that they will choose what side to be on," said Najib Ghadban, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council which represents most of Assad's opponents.

An analyst in Damascus said there were "very few chances" that the government would allow in observers under the conditions set by the vaporous Arab League. Syria says the conditions undermine its illusory sovereignty.

The Arab League had on November 27 approved a first wave of sweeping sanctions against Assad's government over the crackdown -- the first time that the bloc has enforced such punitive measures against a member state.

Those measures included an immediate freeze on transactions with Damascus and its central bank and on Syrian regime assets in Arab countries.

The latest standoff between the Syria and the Arab League comes as the corpse count from violence across the country on Saturday and Sunday rose to at least 31, and after the U.N. Human Rights Council accused Damascus of "gross violations" of human rights
...which often include carefully measured allowances of freedom at the convenience of the state...

On the ground, three children aged 11, 14 and 16, were among eight people killed across Syria on Sunday by security forces and pro-regime "shabiha" militiamen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britannia-based watchdog earlier reported 11 civilians among 23 people killed on Saturday, most occurring in the northwestern province of Idlib, a focal point of anti-regime protests raging since March.

Sunday's deadline was announced in Doha by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, who also warned against the internationalization of the Syrian crisis if Damascus did not heed the Arab call.

"As Arabs we fear that if the situation continues things will get out of Arab control," Sheikh Hamad said.

In Geneva on Friday, an emergency meeting of the Human Rights Council passed a resolution "strongly condemning the continued widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities."

Damascus rejected the resolution as "unjust" and said it was "prepared in advance by parties hostile to Syria."

United Nations
...the Oyster Bay money pit...
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in Geneva on Friday that at least 4,000 people have been killed in the crackdown on dissent in Syria since mid-March.

"We are placing the figure at 4,000. But the information coming to us is that it's much more," she said.


Arab League Again Extends Syria's Ultimatum
And this time they really really mean it. After this straight to bed without any supper.
An Arab League ministerial committee has presented Damascus with yet another ultimatum to accept observers to monitor the unrest in the country, Al-Jazeera is reporting.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani announced the new deadline for Syria to avoid sanctions following a meeting in Doha on Saturday, to discuss the measures decided against Damascus over its crackdown on eight months of protests.

Jassim al-Thani was quoted by Al-Jazeera as having said, “During the meeting we contacted Damascus... and we asked them to come tomorrow (to Doha) to sign” the protocol on sending observers to Damascus.

He added, “We are waiting for a reply. As Arabs we fear that if the situation continues things will get out of Arab control.”

Syria, however, has already ignored several ultimatums to end the bloody crackdown on anti-regime protesters, which the UN estimates has so far resulted in the deaths of over 4,000 people.

Last Sunday, the Arab League approved sanctions against Syria, which included cutting off transactions with the Syrian central bank and halting Arab government funding for projects in Syria.

Later in the week the League tightened the sanctions, adding 17 high-ranking Syrian officials to a list banning travel to other Arab states, including Maher al-Assad, commander of the feared Syrian Republican Guard and brother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera reported, the violence continued on Saturday, with at least 25 people dead in fierce fighting between Syrian security forces and army rebels in northern Syria

WikiLeaks: France Said Syrian General Killed in Regime Feud
[An Nahar] A senior Syrian general who was assassinated in 2008 was most likely the victim of a power struggle between figures linked to Bashir al-Assad's regime, La Belle France told U.S. envoys at the time.

According to a U.S. diplomatic cable published online by the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks, a senior adviser to President Nicolas Sarkozy
...23rd and current President of the French Republic and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra. Sarkozy is married to singer-songwriter Carla Bruni, who has a really nice birthday suit...
and an expert from the foreign ministry branded the killing a "mafia-like hit".

Brigadier General Mohammed Suleiman was slain in the Syrian coastal city of Tartus in August 2008. At the time it was widely rumored that he was bumped off by an Israeli sniper hidden on board a yacht moored offshore.

But, according to the U.S. cable, French intelligence believed that he may have been killed because he "knew too much" about the Assad regime's nuclear program and ties to Leb's Hizbullah.

Alternatively, he could have been a victim of a struggle for influence and access to corrupt wealth between rival members of the business elite linked to Assad's ruling clan, Sarkozy's adviser Boris Boillon told U.S. officials.

"When asked how he interpreted the killing, Boillon said several theories presented themselves, the only common denominator of which was internecine rivalry in the entourage close to Bashir al-Assad," the cable said.

"He flatly rejected the notion that the Israelis had taken out Suleiman, particularly the theory that a sniper had shot him," it continued

"French information was that the hit was more 'classic' and 'mafia-like' with police stopping traffic in the immediate vicinity, bodyguards looking the other way, and the assailant pumping a slug into Suleiman's head."

The official floated a theory the killing could have been ordered by Assad's powerful brother, Maher al-Assad, a military commander and regime insider -- sometimes referred to as the second most powerful man in Syria.

"Boillon described Maher as ambitious, a bit of a wild man, and determined to increase his power and influence within the inner circle," the cable said.

The envoys said "Boillon's rundown of the various theories sounded like he had recently read a finished French intelligence assessment of the situation."

Ludovic Pouille, a senior Middle East expert at the French foreign ministry, was "less forthcoming" about his theories in a separate 2008 meeting with U.S. officials, but he agreed the killing looked like an inside job.

"He was equally categorical in disputing the theory that the Israelis were responsible," the cable recounted.

According to Pouille, the French ambassador in Damascus
...The City of Jasmin is the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world. It has not always been inhabited by the same set of fascisti...
believed Suleiman might have died because he knew too much about the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and about Syria's nuclear program.

According to the cable, French officials said Sarkozy planned to "cultivate his personal relationship with Bashar" hoping to convince him to make peace with Israel, "stop destabilizing Leb" and review his ties with Iran.

Assad's brother tops Syria sanctions list
[Al Jazeera] The European Union has placed sanctions on 13 Syrian officials, including President-for-Life Bashir Pencilneck al-Assad's
One of the last of the old-fashioned hereditary iron-fisted fascist dictators. Before going into the family business Pencilneck was an eye doctor...
brother and a wealthy and influential cousin, as the government continued its violent crackdown on protests and reportedly sent tanks into towns near the flashpoint city of Deraa.

The package of sanctions, announced on Tuesday, is aimed at pressuring Assad to halt violence against anti-government demonstrations that broke out in March. It targets various heads of security and intelligence agencies in the country and includes asset freezes, travel bans, and an arms embargo.

Maher al-Assad, the president's brother, commands the Republican Guard and is considered the second most powerful man in the country. The EU sanctions described him as the "principal overseer of violence against demonstrators."

EU governments decided not to target President Assad himself, and diplomats said punitive measures would be introduced gradually.

But Assad, who is grappling with the most serious challenge to his 11-year rule, could face EU sanctions soon, they said.

The failure to put him on the list underlined splits within the union over the effectiveness of such actions. Sources said Germany and Spain opposed adding the president, overriding strong support from La Belle France and others.

Rami Makhlouf, the president's cousin and the owner of Syria's largest mobile phone company, Syriatel, was also placed on the sanctions list. Makhlouf also owns several large construction and oil firms.

Makhlouf "bankrolls the regime, allowing violence against demonstrators," the EU's official journal said. The United States placed him under sanctions in 2008 due to corruption allegations.

The EU sanctions also target Mohammad Ibrahim Al-Chaar, the interior minister, Ali Mamlouk, the head of the General Intelligence Service, and Abd al-Fatah Qudsiyeh, who runs military intelligence.

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