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."