The analysis by Al Homayed, editor of the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al
Awsat, marked the first time that the royal family appeared to raise the
prospect that Assad would be replaced. Saudi King Abdullah, whose wife is
related to Assad's family, has sought to help the Syrian president end the
fueled by the Islamic opposition.
Al Homayed said the Assad regime would not enact democratic reforms to
end the huge and bloody protests throughout Syria. He said the president and
the ruling family were convinced that the opposition could be stopped only
The Syrian power elite was said to included Assad's younger brother
Maher, head of the Syrian Presidential Guard as well as his cousin,
industrialist Rami Makhlouf, and his brother Hafez, head of Syrian security.
The analysis, in a scenario that has alarmed the United States, said one of
these three, particularly Hafez, could decide to recruit Iran to topple the
"This is something that would radically change the form and substance of
the Syrian leadership," Al Homayed said.
Another scenario was that Assad would conduct a reform campaign that
would target threats to his regime. This would include the arrest of
Makhlouf, already a target of U.S. sanctions and regarded as the financier
of the Assad regime. In March 2011, the pro-Syrian Lebanese daily, Al
Akhbar, in a column, believed ordered by Assad himself, called for the
arrest of Makhlouf.
"Reform would mean Assad carrying out a palace coup [against Makhlouf],
before a coup is carried out against him," the analysis said. "And the
question that must be asked here is: Have the events in Syria overcome the
entire regime, or will such a palace coup allow the regime to save what can