The most prominent Syria defector to date says that his country's "wounded" regime may have already used chemical weapons on its people and has collaborated with Al Qaeda terrorists to orchestrate high profile bombings across the country. Nawaf Fares was Syria's ambassador to Iraq before quitting his post last week. This week he sat down with the BBC to reveal details about the regime that many people will find quite alarming if they turn out to be true.
Fares, who describes his old boss Bashar al-Assad as "a wounded wolf and cornered," says that he would not rule out the possibility of the government using its large stockpile of chemical weapons against opposition forces, if it felt trapped. He even suggested that the regime may have already used them in the city of Homs, though he admitted that information is not confirmed. As far as we know, there have been no credible accusations of such a charge from the opposition so far.
An equally disturbing charge by Fares is that the Assad regime has collaborated with Al Qaeda militants to stage bombings within Syria that were meant to frighten the populace and discredit the opposition. Several large suicide bombings have occurred in Damascus in previous months, some of them even targeting Syria's security services. Publicly, the regime blames the entire uprising on "foreign terrorists," but some in the opposition have accused Assad of staging these attacks themselves to turn public opinion against the uprising. Al Qaeda has also been accused of taking advantage of the chaos to carry out its own agenda, but this is the most prominent accusation that they are working together.
When asked why Sunni militants would collaborate with the Allwaite sect that runs the country, Fares says that despite being natural enemies, their interests are now colliding. He said, "Al Qaeda is searching for space to move and means of support, the regime is looking for ways to terrorise the Syrian people."
It's hard to know just how reliable Fares is given his distance from Damascus during the uprising, but he had major positions in the Baath Party prior to being appointed as ambassador in 2008, and would still know the regime better than most. If his claims are true, he's painting a picture of desperate leader, unafraid to try any tactic that might help him hold his grip on power. A person willing to attack his own people, even his own supporters, using the most despicable means available is capable of almost anything — a fact that should give other nations pause should they choose to intervene.
Unfortunately, that may be the only course of action available as Fares agrees with the growing conventional wisdom that Assad will never step down willingly:
"It doesn't occur to any Syrian, not only me, that Bashar al-Assad will let go of power through political interventions... He will be ousted only by force," Mr Fares said.