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Wednesday, May 4, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israeli intel projection: Syria's Assad is finished

TEL AVIV — Israel's intelligence community has assessed that Syrian President Bashar Assad was likely to be ousted.


Officials said the intelligence community has determined that Assad's authority was being eroded by the revolt in Syria. They said the president has failed to meet expectations both within the regime elite as well as its leading ally, Iran, to rapidly end the bloody unrest.

"I believe Assad is approaching the moment in which he will lose his authority," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. The growing brutality is pushing him into a corner. The more people are killed, the less chance Assad has to come out of it."

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In a television interview on May 2, Barak became the first Israeli senior official to predict that Assad would fall. Earlier, officials appeared confident that the regime, which hosts Hamas and Hizbullah, would quickly defeat the revolt.

Officials said the intelligence community, in an assessment shared by many of its Western counteparts, has determined that the revolt against Assad was being fueled by elements in Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. They said these countries have supplied funds and weapons for daily attacks by Islamic fighters on Assad's security forces.

The intelligence assessment envisioned two prospects. One was that Assad would be ousted in an internal coup led by his younger brother Maher or a senior regime member. Another scenario was that Iran directly helps the military in overthrowing Assad in exchange for a commitment that Syria remains loyal to Teheran.

"If he stops killing people I can't see faith being restored in him," Barak said. "I don't know if he will end his role in a month or two months. He may recover but I don't think he will be the same and I think his fate is going in the same direction as that of other Arab leaders."

Officials said the fate of the Assad regime could be decided over the next few weeks. On May 2, the regime gave the protest movement two weeks to surrender or face arrest, an ultimatum that officials said reflected pressure on the president himself.

"I don't think Israel should be alarmed by the possibility of Assad being replaced," Barak, who broke a government silence on Syria, said. "The process taking place in the Middle East holds great promise and inspiration in the long term for our children and grandchildren."

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