August 28, 2013
Abu Fouad, a 32 year-old correspondent with Orient News, says that news of an imminent US military intervention has struck fear into the hearts of Bashar al-Assad’s supporters. Speaking with Nuha Shabaan from his home in the Damascus suburb of Jobar, Abu Fouad says that regime loyalists, including many Alawite soldiers, have begun to flee the capital city, which was once thought to be impregnable for rebel forces.
Abu Fouad says that twenty regime soldiers and officers defected in the Damascus area on Tuesday simply after hearing news of the proposed military strike. “What do you think will happen if the strike actually happens?” he asks.
Q: We’ve heard news of mass shabiha (pro-regime militia) migration from Damascus. Is it true?
A: Yes, this news is true. Some areas have witnessed mass migration of Alawites and Shiites. They are taking everything with them, even furniture.
Q: Are they afraid of a military strike from the US, which seems increasingly likely?
A: Yes, the areas they are located in are the first areas that would be hit by a military intervention: Eish al-Ward, for example, which is near Central Intelligence and has missile launcher bases that can reach Ghouta. It will be the first place to get hit if the US strikes.
Then there is Madamiat al-Sham, directly behind the Mezzeh Airbase, which shelters officers inside the air base. Near Damascus International Airport there is [the regime’s] 35th Division, and Ghasouli, which also contains housing for the Republican Guard and other special units. It is only few meters away from the airport.
Second, al-Qamloun is known to have 8 or 9 brigades which are the largest regime brigades. In Tal al-Mania’ there is the 108th Regiment, the 18th Regiment, and the 90th Regiment, all of which are stationed near loyalist areas and their families will be the next [targets]. That’s why they are fleeing.
They are sending their families to the coast or to the Lebanese border, which witnessed yesterday a huge number of shabiha and Alawite families in those areas, or to the Turkish mountains, where Turkish Alawites can protect them. They are taking everything with them, including TVs and anything else you can imagine. This [potential US] strike would break the regime’s back, and its Alawite supporters along with it.
Q: Will the next few days see more defection?
A: Yesterday there four soldiers defected, and today twenty officers and soldiers joined them simply after hearing news [of the US strike], so what do you think will happen if the strike actually happens?
Then there are the Alawite officers who started helping the FSA in order to save face, because they fear for their lives.
Q: What do people think of the military strike on Syria? From your understanding, are most with it or against it?
A: [Most in] Ghouta are with the strike. Those in Damascus are mostly against it because they are living their lives comfortably and only care about themselves eating and drinking – not just Alawites but rich people and those who are neutral on the war as well. The remainder are scared of striking the FSA because they [fear] Islamists.