SYRIA: Bashar al-Assad appoints new governors

DARAMSUQ (DAMASCUS), Syria – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a series of decrees in which he ordered the reshuffling and appointment of new governors in Syria’s southern governates of As-Suwayda, al-Qunaitra and Daraa, the Homs governate and al-Hassakah governate in North and East Syria. All new governors are members of the Baath party which rules Syria since 1963.

Al-Assad appointed Hammam Sadiq al-Debiyat as governor of the As-Suwayda governorate, Muhammad Tariq Ziyad Krishati as governor of Quneitra governorate and Marwan Ibrahim Sharbak governor of Daraa governorate. None of them seems to have a long or heavy security services background. Bassam Mamdouh Parsik was appointed governor of the Homs governorate. And Ghassan Khalil, with a long history in the security services, was appointed governor of al-Hasakah governate in the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.

The Sham Network published on its website information that the new governor of al-Hasakah, Ghassan Khalil is close with al-Assad. He was once part of the team in charge of al-Assad’s personal protection and was later promoted to head branch 255 of the security services during the period 2010-2013. Branch 255 was responsible for thwarting, repressing and pursuing journalists by penetrating social media sites. Ghassan Khalil supervised the so-called Syrian Electronic Army.

In 2017, he was promoted to the rank of major-general and appointed to the position of assistant director of the State Security Department. Ghassan Khalil provided many logistic services to facilitate military operations of Iranian forces and affiliated militias in Syria. Because of the State Security Department’s prominent role in human rights violations against millions of Syrians, Khalil was included in the sanctions lists of European countries, Great Britain and Canada.

Regarding Syria’s southern provinces of As-Suwayda, Qunaitra and Daraa, which have been problematic and disquieting for the Syrian regime since it regained full control of the latter two in 2018, the Jerusalem Post says that replacing the incumbent governors may be a sign that al-Assad has lost confidence in several key governors or that he recognizes that the latest series of security incidents require changes.

Also according to the newspaper, al-Assad, after regaining full control, signed reconciliation deals that saw some rebel groups remain as temporary enforcers for the regime backed by Russian military police.