Syrian first lady defects after Damascus attack

By Alex Veeneman on July 18, 2012

Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad addressing the country’s parliament. An attack in Damascus killed some members of the regime.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user Pan-African News Wire File Photos)

An attack in the Syrian capital Damascus has killed leaders of the regime of president Bashar al-Assad, amidst unconfirmed reports that Assad’s wife has defected to Russia.

According to a report from the BBC, the three leaders who died were Syria’s defense minister, Assad’s brother-in-law, and the head of his crisis team. They were meeting in Damascus to discuss national security issues when the suicide bombing attack happened. There are unconfirmed reports that the country’s interior minister and the national security chief were wounded.

A vote by the UN Security Council in New York for further sanctions against the country was postponed to July 19 in light of the attack, at a request by the envoy Kofi Annan, who condemned the violence, according to a BBC report.

Nadim Shehadi, a Middle East analyst at the independent policy institute Chatham House based in London, told the British newspaper The Guardian these attacks were a blow to Assad. “The opposition has hit the jackpot,” Shehadi said. “The consequences are too big to digest. It may provoke more violence by the regime. Everyone is revising their calculations. People will be deciding whether to defect or not and the Russians will be wondering if they have backed the wrong horse.”

One Assad supporter told The Guardian that it was a blow, but said the regime is not done. “This will not be the end of the regime in any way,” the supporter said. “But it is serious and people are traumatized at the fact that the opposition managed to assassinate these people. But government supporters want the government to be firm and show it is still in control. The Syrian government is not usually impulsive.”

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