August 12, 2011 | Quote

Assad’s Noose Tightens

Kuwait’s turnaround may be the most significant since, as Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explains, Assad and his cousin Rami Makhlouf have reached out to the Kuwaitis for financial assistance. “Makhlouf, who is now sanctioned by the U.S. and the EU, sold off his shares in his duty-free network to the Kuwaiti Kharafi Group,” says Badran. “However, now with Saudi Arabia recalling its ambassador, and Qatar already having done so, Kuwait had to follow suit in distancing itself from Assad.” …

“The regime abducted and detained the chief of the tribal confederacy, Sheikh Nawaf al-Bashir, and assaulted Deir al-Zour with tanks,” says Badran. “The tribes are incensed and ready to mobilize against Assad. Unlike the besieged civilians in Hama or Homs, these tribes straddle the border with Iraq where they have extensions that number even more than they do in Syria. This means that should they decide to pick up arms against the regime, they will have strategic depth in Iraq. A tribal insurrection in eastern Syria poses a critical challenge to Assad and his troops—many of whom have already defected in Deir al-Zour and Albu Kamal—as he would have to reallocate resources further out in the east. With the military stretched thin as it is, unable to control multiple cities simultaneously, attrition in the east might become a fatal wound.”