Ex-Syria official tells of collusion between Assad, Russia, Daesh
' "A month before the city fell to Daesh, we had received information that Daesh was planning to attack Tadmur and the adjacent city of Sukhna. We conveyed the information to Assad himself," said Mohamed Qassim, who formerly served as attorney-general in Syria’s central city of Tadmur. "But instead of laying out a plan to defend the city, Assad ordered military forces to vacate Tadmur in hopes of tempting Daesh to fill the vacuum," he said.
According to Qassim, Assad had wanted to give the impression that Daesh had captured Tadmur, from which the group hoped to advance on the central city of Homs to kill Alawites and Christians. "[Assad was confident] that the destruction of ancient monuments in the city would anger world public opinion and thus demonize the revolution," he said.
When he was serving as the city’s attorney-general, Qassim said, he had discovered scores of bodies of political detainees in regime-run prisons. "These people’s crime was to oppose the criminal Assad regime," he said. Qassim added that political detainees had been subject to horrific forms of torture. "Many were beaten, burnt, tortured or crucified to death," he said.
"There were atrocities and crimes committed by Russia and the Assad regime that the world never knew about," he said. He asserted that most of the city’s monuments, for example, had been destroyed by Russian airstrikes or barrel bombs dropped by regime aircraft. "Russian bombardments and regime [attacks] don’t target Daesh; rather, they are killing civilians, rendering thousands of the city’s residents homeless," he said.
Qassim went on to note that Russia -- which began striking opposition forces in Syria last September -- never attempted to retake Tadmur from Daesh. "It’s destroying the city and killing its people and is ultimately working to obliterate Tadmur," he said.
Qassim said dozens of Russian military experts had arrived in Tadmur when he was still serving as the city’s attorney-general. "These experts visited oil and gas fields to carry out maintenance and repair operations under the protection of Daesh militants," he said.
Qassim went on to disclose that regime forces were selling weapons to Daesh militants, asserting that a Syrian officer -- named Mohamed Gaber -- had been responsible for selling weapons to the militant group. "He [Gaber] smuggled weapons at night to Daesh militants and was paid by middlemen," he said. Providing a glimpse as to how the weapons were procured by Daesh, Qassim said Gaber used to order extra weapons at one of the army checkpoints under his control. "[Shortly afterward] Daesh militants would attack the checkpoint, from which Gaber would order his troops to withdraw -- leaving the weapons to the militants," he said. "After the militants withdrew from the checkpoint, Gaber and his forces would return to find it emptied of weapons," Qassim said.
Asked about the illicit trafficking of ancient artifacts in Syria, Qassim said the practice had been widespread even before the outbreak of the revolution. "This has been happening for more than ten years," he said, going on to name Sabra al-Khazen, head of military intelligence in Tadmur, as one of the country’s best-known antiquities smugglers. "He [al-Khazen] amassed thousands of ancient artifacts and sold them to buyers abroad. He shared his profits with Assad and other members of the intelligence apparatus," Qassim said.
Qassim fled Syria in late 2015 to neighboring Turkey. "I was a witness to the peacefulness of the Syrian revolution; I saw how peaceful protesters were killed by [regime forces] in Homs," he said. The former attorney-general went on to assert that Syria had since become "one big prison". "There is panic and fear everywhere," he said. According to Qassim, the Assad regime had been on the verge of collapse before Russia had intervened in the conflict. "The Russian aggression provided the regime with moral support," he said. "This support, however, remains very fragile." Qassim stressed that all Syrians -- Sunnis and Alawites alike -- despised Assad and his regime. "All are confident that he will either escape or be killed," he said. "Everyone knows Assad is doomed to defeat." '