Assad's paranoia: bed-hopping every night and strict poisoning precautions
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seems to be developing a highly cautious nature after reports revealed that he sleeps every night in a different bedroom and has restricted control over food preparation driven by his fear of being assassinated.
The Syrian president who had vowed in his last television appearance to “live and die” in Syria, is now “restricting contacts to a small circle of family members and trusted advisers,” the Washington Post quoted U.S. and Middle Eastern officials as saying on Saturday.
The reports said Assad has been sleeping in different bedrooms every night and has stopped going outdoors during daylight, all seen as indicators that the president is becoming highly alert on security, “out of fear that he will be hit by a sniper’s bullet or other fire,” the newspaper reported.
“His movements suggest a constant state of fear,” a Middle Eastern official told the Washington Post on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.
Russia acknowledged on Saturday that al-Assad will not be persuaded to quit but insisted there is still a chance of finding a political solution to the 21-month conflict.
International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned Syria was facing a choice between "hell or the political process" after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on his end-of-year bid to accelerate moves to halt a conflict that monitors say has now killed more than 45,000 people.
The talks came amid emerging signs that Russia was beginning to distance itself from Assad's government and urgent efforts by Brahimi to resurrect a failed peace initiative that world powers agreed to in Geneva in June.
"It is really indispensible that the conflict finishes in 2013 and really the beginning of 2013," the envoy said.
Lavrov said both he and Brahimi agreed there was hope for a solution as long as world powers put pressure on both sides.
"The confrontation is escalating. But we agree the chance for a political solution remains," he said.
Moscow has been under intense pressure to urge the leadership of its last Middle East ally to accept a face-saving agreement that would see the rebels assume gradual command as the fighting reaches Damascus itself.
Yet analysts have questioned the actual sway the Kremlin has over Assad, and Lavrov appeared to betray a hint of frustration when revealing that Assad had this week told Brahimi that he does not intend to leave.
"Regarding Bashar al-Assad, he repeatedly said, both publically and in private... that he is not planning to leave, that he will remain in his post," Lavrov said.
"There is no possibility to change this position."
Is President Assad's paranoia justified? Or has he got many more years to look forward to? Tell us what you think below.