U.S. May Issue Most Wanted Syrians Playing Cards
The United States is considering issuing a set of playing cards to help identify 100 most wanted figures of the Syrian regime, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat reported Monday, quoting sources from the U.S. Department of State.
According to the report, measures were being taken to produce the cards, which will contain pictures and brief biographical information about each regime figure.
A similar deck of cards was issued in 2003 against high-ranking officials of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.
The latest U.S. strategy, which will be unveiled in the near future according to the Asharq al-Awsat report, will provide targeted figures an opportunity for partial reprieve if they cooperate with investigators. The strategy seeks to encourage members of President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle to defect.
“Because of the bloody character of Assad's regime, those involved will be tried while doors of amnesty and reconciliation will be open for others,” the paper quoted the unnamed U.S. source as saying.
Members of Assad's Alawite clan who are not implicated in the bloodshed will be granted “a survival opportunity.”
Asharq al-Awsat noted that, according to intelligence data, many Alawites are supporting Assad only because they are afraid of reprisal if the regime falls. Many Alawites, the report said, are afraid they will be executed if the opposition wins, and the anticipated U.S. plan is meant to dispel those fears.
President Assad holds number one in the deck of cards, the report said. His brother Maher al-Assad, the commander of the Republican Guard and the army's elite Fourth Armored Division, holds number two.
Rami Makhlouf, a wealthy Syrian businessman believed to be in charge of financing Assad's Shabbiha thugs, holds card number three.
Number four is Ali Mamlouk, special security adviser to President Assad, following by Abdul Fatah Qudsiya, deputy director of the National Security Bureau. Number six is interior minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar.
In a rare speech he gave on Sunday, Assad offered a road map to end Syria's civil war but said that the first step was for foreign powers to stop supporting armed rebels seeking to topple him.
"Right after that, our military operations will cease," he said, adding, without elaborating, that a mechanism would be set up to monitor any such truce.
The government would then step up contacts to convene a national dialogue conference with opponents "inside and outside" Syria who do not take orders from abroad.
"We will hold dialogue with (those who are) the masters (of their decisions) not the slaves (of foreign powers)," Assad said.
The United States was not impressed with Assad's speech. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the speech "is yet another attempt by the regime to cling to power and does nothing to advance the Syrian people's goal of a political transition. His initiative is detached from reality," she said.
On Monday, Syria's tolerated opposition also rejected Assad's offer, AFP reported.
The National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria (NCB) issued its verdict even as Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi said his cabinet would meet soon to draw up a mechanism for the peace roadmap announced by Assad.
"We will not take part in a national dialogue before violence stops," the head of the opposition group, Hassan Abdel Azim, told a news conference in Damascus, according to AFP.
He also demanded that any dialogue be preceded by the release of prisoners, a guarantee to ensure humanitarian aid is delivered to areas hit by the violence and the publication of a statement on the fate of missing Syrians.
"Any negotiation -- not just a national dialogue -- must be held under the aegis of the UN-Arab League envoy (Lakhdar Brahimi)," he said.
"There won't be direct negotiations or dialogue with the regime," he stressed.
Abdel Azim and fellow NCB member Raja al-Nasser insisted that time had run out for "political solutions" in a country where 21 months of violence have killed more than 60,000 people, according to the latest UN estimates.