Jordan’s king: Syria not over yet
(CNN) — Jordan’s King Abdullah II, one of the first Arab leaders to call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, told CNN the attack on Wednesday that killed members of al-Assad’s inner circle is a “tremendous blow to the regime.”
But the king cautioned that he did not think the attack meant al-Assad’s regime was about to crumble immediately.
The explosion, which a rebel leader said was detonated by remote control, killed Defense Minister Dawood Rajiha; Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat — al-Assad’s brother-in-law; and Hasan Turkmani, al-Assad’s security adviser and assistant vice president, the state TV reports said. Interior Minister Ibrahim al-Shaar was injured in the blast, state television said, adding that he “is in good health and that his condition is stable.”
“This was a tremendous blow to the regime but again, Damascus has shown its resilience, so I think maybe we need to keep this in perspective,” Abdullah told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “Although this is a blow, I’m sure the regime will continue to show fortitude at least in the near future.”
A picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency on July 19 shows Syrian General Fahd al-Freij (R) meeting with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus following his swearing-in ceremony as the new defense minister.
A man holds up a picture of President Bashar al-Assad at a former police station in Atareb after clashes between Syrian soldiers and Free Syrain Army near Aleppo on Thursday, July 19. Rebels seized control of border crossings with Iraq on Thursday, dealing a new blow to President Bashar al-Assad, as China and Russia dismayed the West by blocking U.N. action against his regime.
People walk along the street in Atareb amidst damage caused by clashed between Syrian soldiers and the Free Syrian Army.
A Syrian man checks the former police station of Syrian regime after a clash at Atareb on Thursday.
Smoke ascends from from alleged shelling of the Syrian village of Jebata al-Khashab as seen from the hill village of Buqaata in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on Thursday.
The death toll in Syria on July 12, 2012 reached 287, making it the bloodiest day in Syria since the uprising began. As it has done consistently, Syrian state television blamed “armed terrorist groups” for the killings.
A Syrian woman sits with her grandson outside a damaged building after attacks in the Syrian village of Treimsa on July 13, 2012. More than 200 people were massacred in the town, according to activists.
A Syrian demonstrator holds an opposition flag during a protest in Damascus on July 2, 2012. There have been increasing reports of violence in the Syrian capital.
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad waves as he arrives for a speech to Syria’s parliament in Damascus on June 3, 2012. The embattled president denied that government forces were behind the “outrageous” massacre in Houla.
People gather at a mass burial on May 26, 2012 for victims reportedly killed during an artillery barrage from Syrian forces in Houla. The attack left at least 108 people dead, including nearly 50 children, according to the United Nations.
Members of the Free Syrian Army return to Qusayr on May 12, 2012 after an attack on Syrian regime forces in the village of Nizareer, near the Lebanese border in Homs.
A U.N. observer speaks with Syrian rebels and civilians in the village of Azzara on May 4, 2012, days before the country’s parlianemtary polls were held against a backdrop of unrest.
Thousands of Syrians wave their national flag and hold portraits of President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, right, during a rally to show support for their leader on March 29, 2012 in Damascus.
Syrian rebel fighters man a checkpoint leading into the town of Taftanaz in the rebel stronghold province of Idlib on March 20, 2012.
A Free Syrian Army rebel mounts his steed in the Al-Shatouria village near the Turkish border in northwestern Syria on March 16, 2012, a year after the uprising began. The Free Syrian Army is an armed opposition group made up largely of military defectors.
Syrian refugees walk across a field before crossing into Turkey on March 14, 2012. International mediator Kofi Annan called for an immediate halt to the killing of civilians in Syria as he arrived in Turkey for talks on the crisis.
A day after the twin suicide bombings, Syrian mourners pray over the coffins of the 44 people killed during a mass funeral in Damascus.
A Syrian man who was wounded in a suicide attack rests at a hospital in Damascus on December 23, 2011. Suicide bombers hit two security service bases in the Syrian capital, killing dozens of people.
Arab foreign ministers attend an emergency meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on October 16, 2011, to discuss the crisis in Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the media in Washington on August 18, 2011. Clinton said U.S. sanctions on Syrian oil “strike at the heart of the Syrian regime.”
Syrian youths wave national flags while army troops drive out of Daraa on May 5, 2011. During a week-long military lockdown of the town, dozens of people were reportedly killed in what activists described as “indiscriminate” shelling on the city.
Syrians in Damascus protest in the street on March 25, 2011, after clashes with government forces in Daraa left several dead.
Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rally on April 1 in Istanbul, Turkey, as delegates from dozens of countries gather to push for ways to end the deadly violence in Syria. The United Nations estimates more than 10,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the crisis in March 2011. The conflict is now being labeled a civil war by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Photos: Showdown in Syria
Exclusive: King Abdullah talks Syria
Syrian defense minister reported killed
Fighting rages around Damascus
The king said the attack shows “cracks” in the regime, but his larger concern is the growing sectarian violence and whether it may lead to all-out civil war.
He said the danger of civil war is increasing, and it is al-Assad’s last chance to try to stop that from happening.
“If it breaks down, if civil order breaks down to the point of no return, it will take years to fix Syria. I have a feeling we’re seeing the signs of that. The only people that can bring us back from that brink is the president and the regime. This is the last chance they have.”
The king said the international community is continuing to pursue all options involving a political transition, but that recent events made him concerned about whether they could work.
“I think, as we continue to pursue the political option, the realities on the ground may have overtaken us,” he said. “Therefore I think the clock is ticking. I think we should continue to give politics its due, but if we haven’t already passed that window, I think we’re getting very close to a (civil war).”
Abdullah said he and other leaders are concerned about Syria’s chemical weapons.
“One of the worst-case scenarios, as we are trying to look for political solutions, would be if some of those chemical stockpiles would fall into unfriendly hands,” he said.
Jordan’s leader said that the big concern is whether the weapons could fall into the hands of groups like al Qaeda, which he said he believes is operating in parts of Syria.
And he said not knowing who exactly is on which side complicates matters, including discussions of arming the rebels.
Blitzer asked the king whether he thought it would be acceptable for al-Assad to flee to another country or if he wanted him to be tried for war crimes.
“If Bashar leaving the scene and exiting Syria brings a stop to the violence and creates a political transition — that’s a lesser of evils,” he said.
Abdullah said the international community must consider that, if al-Assad were to leave, questions would arise over who would replace him and how that might affect the restoration of order in Syria.
“It’s not so much the individual, it’s the system, and does the system allow for political transition?” Abdullah said. “And that’s where I have my doubts.”
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