UK Telegraph Accused of Fabricating Syria Coup Story

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[ Editor’s note: The UK Telegraph has published a story today about a coup in Damascus that has Syrian officials reeling in disbelief. 

Sources next to President Assad have responded to the story in today’s UK Telegraph reporting the arrest of Ali Mamlouk. They deny it entirely. Mamlouk’s friends and family members are shocked at the report citing Syria’s security chief as plotting with Al Nusra against President Assad.

Telegraph correspondent Ruth Sherlock is identified as an MI6 asset and longtime associate of Franklin Lamb.  Staff at the Dama Rose hotel still talk about her, ” a bitch on wheels” or the Arabic equivalent.  Sherlock is said to act as an intermediary between British intelligence and Al Nusra/Al Qaeda militants, according to sources in Damascus.  From the Israeli Haaretz website:

Ruth Sherlock is a freelance journalist and an intern for Haaretz.com

Highest level sources in Syria are disturbed at the Telegraph story.  The UK Telegraph has recently applied for offices in Damascus and are likely to be met with some resistance. We have solid confirmations that the Telegraph is wrong in their story — that Mamlouk is at his job today and that there was no coup attempt.

VT spoke with a family friend and coworkers of Mamlouk this morning, and they were very disturbed at the story, which they see as a plant by Turkish intelligence. Syrian sources also point out other flaws in the article involving not only the relationship with Iran, but the fate of  Rustum Ghazaleh who died of complications related to diabetes… Gordon Duff ]

From the UK Telegraph: Bashar al-Assad’s spy chief arrested over Syria coup plot

Ali Mamlouk, the head of the country’s National Security Bureau, has been removed as the regime of Bashar al-Assad begins to show divisions over the role of Iran

Ali Mamlouk

Ali Mamlouk was accused of holding secret talks with countries backing rebel groups
 
By , and Carol Malouf in Beirut

Ali Mamlouk, the head of the country’s National Security Bureau, and one of the few officials still to have access to President Bashar al-Assad, was accused of holding secret talks with countries backing rebel groups and exiled members of the Syrian regime.

Mr Assad is struggling to keep together the regime’s “inner circle”, who are increasingly turning on each other, sources inside the presidential palace have told The Telegraph.

Even before Mamlouk’s arrest, the web of intelligence agencies with which the regime has enforced its authority for four decades was in turmoil, with two other leaders killed or removed.

Rustum Ghazaleh (AFP)

Last month, Rustum Ghazaleh, the head of the Political Security Directorate, died in hospital after he was physically attacked by men loyal to General Rafiq Shehadeh, his opposite number in military intelligence, who was in turn sacked.





The role being played in the war by Iran, Syria’s regional ally, is said to be at the heart of the arguments, with some of the “inner circle” afraid that Iranian officials now have more power than they do.

Iran’s influence has been crucial in bolstering Syria’s defences against the rebels, but even that has been crumbling in the face of recent rebel advances in the north.

It was as Syrian troops lost control of Idlib city and Jisr al-Shughour to an alliance of Islamist rebels including Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s local branch, that Mamlouk reportedly began to make contact with hostile governments and former regime officials.

“Mamlouk had been communicating with Turkish intelligence through an intermediary,” said a senior regime source with direct knowledge of the plan.

Mamlouk had also used a businessman from Aleppo as an intermediary to contact Rifaat al-Assad, Bashar’s uncle, who has lived abroad exile since he was accused of seeking to mount a coup in Syria in the 1980s.

Rifaat al-Assad declined to comment on the reports, but one informed source, who asked not to be named, said that ” there is a big interest among the Syrian officers and military for Rifaat Assad to come back to Syria”.

The late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, right, with his youngest brother Rifaat in 1984 (AFP)

Iranian operatives in Syria are believed to have taken command of large areas of government, from the central bank to the battle strategy.

“Most of the advisers at the presidential palace are now Iranian,” said a source close to the palace. “Mamlouk hated that Syria was giving her sovereignty up to Iran. He thought there needed to be a change.”

Ghazaleh is believed to have shared this view of the Iranian influence.

Like Mamlouk, Ghazaleh was born to a Sunni Muslim family, and was opposed to the power being acquired in the country by Shia Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and its Lebanese proxy Hizbollah.

Issam al-Reis, a spokesman for the Southern Front rebel groups, who are fighting close to Ghazaleh’s home village in Deraa, said intelligence picked up from captives and others suggested Ghazaleh was fiercely hostile to Iran.

“He was complaining that he and his men were being treated like scum, whilst the Iranians and their militias were lords,” he said.

“Shehadeh arrested two of Ghazaleh’s nephews from his home town because they had refused to fight under Iranian command. Ghazaleh went to the military intelligence headquarters to defend them and get them released, but there Shehadeh’s men beat him.”

Suffering from brain damage, Ghazaleh spent several weeks in hospital before the regime formally announced his death on 24th April.

Mr Reis’s account was corroborated by two sources inside the regime, who asked to remain anonymous.

The regime in Syria is of critical importance to Iran, who uses Syria as the primary route through which to arm Hizbollah.

With the fortunes of the two regimes so inextricably linked, Iran has bankrolled and provided the expertise and the weapons for President Assad’s war.

Syria’s ailing economy would likely have collapsed were it not for the credit facility provided by Tehran – more than $15 billion to date, according to Damascus’ finance minister.

Last month, when senior officials in Syria’s regime made one of their regular visits to Tehran, the meetings were tense, and at sometimes fraught, a source close to the Iranian government told the Telegraph.

“Members of the regime said that they were losing control of Syria. At one point they even suggested considering cutting a deal with the opposition,” the source said.

“The Iranians were furious, after all they had done to help. They would not lose control.”

Charles Lister, a Syria expert with the Brookings Institution said that recent events have left the regime facing its most critical situation in years.

“Iran appears to be calling the shots now,” said Mr Lister. “This is partly from the fear that the regime might collapse from the inside out. Tehran is trying to create a brick wall around them.”

Author Details
Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He is a disabled veteran and has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades. Gordon is an accredited diplomat and is generally accepted as one of the top global intelligence specialists. He manages the world’s largest private intelligence organization and regularly consults with governments challenged by security issues. Duff has traveled extensively, is published around the world and is a regular guest on TV and radio in more than “several” countries. He is also a trained chef, wine enthusiast, avid motorcyclist and gunsmith specializing in historical weapons and restoration. Business experience and interests are in energy and defense technology. Gordon’s Latest Posts
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