A combination of Syrian army defectors, struggling opposition parties, the fear of becoming the next Libya and the suspension of Syria from the Arab league is overwhelming but the peaceful uprising that’s slowly turning into a civil war might be the window of opportunity that uncle Rifaat has been seeking.
Rifaat al Assad, well known in Syria as the ‘Butcher of Hama’ for leading the Syrian army and the defence brigades into Hama in 1982 and butchering around 40,000 people, has made a sudden reappearance. The younger brother of Hafez al Assad was not banished on the basis of the massacre he committed but for attempting a coup against his brother.
On Sunday Rifaat al Assad caught the media’s attention when he took on the reigns of a new opposition movement. He not only declared that he ‘is now best placed to bring the latest crisis to an end’ but also claimed that he, ‘the butcher of Hama’, has always defended democracy. As much as he claims his allegiance to the people of Syria and their right to freedom, it was, and still is, Bashar al Assad who funds Rifaat al Assad’s luxurious life in the attempt to keep him out of Syria.
Rifaat’s former ties with the current regime and the emergence of his National Democratic council fails in comparison to his son’s efforts to re-emerge as a political figure. Ribal al Assad, the first cousin of Bashar al Assad, is the founder of The Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria. He has made several appearances on programmes such as BBC Hardtalk and has given talks in a few London universities. Although Ribal states that he does not work for his father and doesn’t share the same politics as him, this is contradicted by the fact that he works for the Arab News Network (ANN), a television station that his father owns. Ribal al Assad has not only become the spokesperson for his father’s political aspirations but is also working on a political agenda of his own.
His blatant plot to regain his family’s ‘rightful’ position in the Syrian government unfortunately does not stop there. Back in July Rifaat and Ribal al Assad were invited to address MPs and Lords at a private meeting in the Houses of Parliament, The Guardian reported.
In a recent interview with AFP and Le Monde, Rifaat al Assad says that he wishes to lead the transition. He argues that “the solution would be that the Arab states guarantee Bashar al-Assad’s security so he can resign and be replaced by someone with financial backing who can look after Bashar’s people after his resignation.” So, why is it that Rifaat al Assad is confident that he is the ‘financial backing’ for Syria?
Last month, reports poured in that Bashar al Assad and Rifaat al Assad’s families have been selling most of their property as quickly as possible in an attempt to liquidate their assets. Reports by Yalla Finance and the French magazine Charlie Hebdo stated that Rifaat alone has sold off huge properties in the U.S, London, France and Spain.
Regardless of the ‘financial backing’ that Rifaat or his son may have, they are unforgettably the most hated Syrians. With their scandalous and atrocious reputation it is unlikely they will be able to get very far. Wagdi Mustafa, the Syrian leftist oppositionist, in an interview with Al Ahram newspaper claims that Rifaat al Assad was excluded in several different conferences of the Syrian opposition ‘because of their direct relationship to the US’ and that they ‘strongly refuse any foreign military intervention in Syria as these people tend to call for.’
But the only way Rifaat al Assad or his son will ever be able to step inside Syria again is if the current regime find themselves pushed into the furthest corner by their people – and in a desperate attempt to keep their interests alive- only then will they turn towards Uncle Rifaat, ‘The Butcher of Hama.’
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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