Jordan’s King Abdullah II said in an interview reported on Tuesday he believes the “system” surrounding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be unable to change even if the embattled leader leaves power.
“If he does go, by whatever means, I don’t see that the system around him is capable of changing,” the Jordanian king told the CBS This Morning program.
The king also said that if he were to put himself in Assad’s shoes, he would be considering a “Plan B” for his exit, particularly after the death of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, who was overthrown by a mass rebellion against his rule, captured by the revolutionaries and subsequently killed in October.
“Again, having seen the images of what happened to Qaddafi, I mean that must be something in the back of his [Assad’s] mind. Where would I want to go if that was an option?
‘Worst case scenario’
The King said Assad could make a “worst case scenario” retreat to an Alawite stronghold if he falls from power in Damascus.
He said that such an outcome to the Syria crisis could splinter the country and cause ethnic strife for decades to come.
The king also said he expected that Assad would try to maintain his bloody bid to cling onto power “indefinitely” and predicted Syria could slip into an “abyss” if a political solution to the crisis was not found soon.
“I have a feeling that if he can’t rule Greater Syria, then maybe an Alawite enclave is Plan B,” Abdullah told CBS interviewer Charlie Rose in the interview conducted on Sunday.
“That would be, I think for us, the worst case scenario — because that means then the break up of Greater Syria.
“That means that everybody starts land grabbing which makes no sense to me. If Syria then implodes on itself that would create problems that would take us decades for us to come back from.”
“The clock is ticking on a political transition and if we don’t find ourselves a way out by the end of the year, then you are going to see a spike in sectarian violence and I think it’s going to be a full-out civil war and I think calamity for years to come,” the Jordanian leader added.
Jordan is hosting more than 140,000 Syrians, and the kingdom is building more camps to house the refugees.
The United Nations estimates that hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the fighting in Aleppo, which has witnessed a sharp increase in military tactics by both sides, including the use of helicopters, jets, tanks, and other heavy weaponry. It remains unclear if the rebel offensive was planned to coincide with a similar offensive in Damascus.
In July, Washington gave $100 million in aid to Jordan to help host tens of thousands of Syrians who have fled the unrest back home and taken refuge in the kingdom.
U.S. ambassador to Jordan said last month that the U.S. aid will also help Jordan meet its growing energy needs in light of the repeated cut-offs occurring from unstable gas supplies from Egypt.
He said the aid will address “the strains on the national budget as a result of the repeated disruption of the Egyptian natural gas, and especially the added cost of providing services and basic commodities to those fleeing the appalling violence in Syria.”
“Nowhere outside of Syria are the effects of the Syrian regime’s violence felt as acutely as in Jordan,” he said at a joint news conference with Jordanian Planning Minister Jaafar Hassan.
The latest aid comes over and above the $660 million approved by Washington in December as military and economic aid to Jordan, which has received $2.4 billion from Washington in the past five years.
More than 19,000 people have been killed in violence in Syria since the outbreak of an anti-regime revolt last year, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in July.
Last week, three Syrian intelligence officers defected from the Damascus regime and sought refuge in Jordan, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army said on Sunday.
“Colonel Yarab al-Shara, his brother Mohammed Kanaan al-Shara and Colonel Yasser Ali Hajj, who worked in political intelligence in Damascus, have defected and are in Jordan,” Kassem Saadeddine told AFP news agency.
Colonel Shara was head of the information department of the intelligence unit located in the capital.
The Shara brothers are from the same clan as Syria’s Sunni Muslim vice president, Faruq al-Shara.
The government of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family is from the Alawite sect of Shiite Islam, has yet to confirm or deny the report.