Bashar al-Assad Fired his Competitor

October 30, 2013
Deputy Prime Minister of Syria Qadri Jamil | Photo: REUTERS / Maxim Shemetov

Syria has sacked their deputy prime minister, Qadri Jamil, without warning. Any sudden change in the Assad regime is likely to spark controversy and conspiracy theory.

Jamil is a member of the opposition party recognized by the President’s party, the Ba’ath party. Jamil’s party is often seen as a farce  as it is fairly closely tied to the Assad regime, but has historically been given room to push the regime for change when the regime itself felt it was in its best interest to change anyway.

That said, many Syrian experts, including The Interpreter’s managing editor James Miller, have long wondered if Jamil had grown uncomfortable with the status quo in Syria. For instance, in September, Jamil suggested that it was time for the Assad regime to negotiate because “neither the armed opposition nor the regime is capable of defeating the other side. This zero balance of forces will not change for a while.” These comments were quickly rejected by regime statements. Jamil also made waves in August when he made statements that were viewed by some as indicating that Syrian President Bashar al Assad might step down. Regarding the opposition’s demand that Assad’s resignation be a precondition for peace talks, Jamil said that, “making [Assad’s] resignation a condition for dialogue effectively means closing negotiations before they begin,” but “during negotiations there is nothing off the table that any of the sides can suggest, including this issue.” It is clear from listening to President Assad, however, he may run for reelection in 2014.

Some have suggested that Jamil wanted Assad to step down and was trying to position himself as the most logical option for leading a transitional government.

Below, we have posted a story originally published in the pro-Kremlin Kommersant which stresses that Jamil was a member of the “moderate opposition” who had been holding meetings that the Assad regime did not approve. – Ed.

Syrian President Bashar Assad suddenly fired Qadri Jamil, the Deputy Prime Minister who is a member of the moderate opposition wing. In the official announcement on the resignation, among the reasons [for his dismissal], his “unauthorized contacts” abroad are mentioned. The other day Qadri Jamil became the first representative of the Syrian regime who participated in the negotiations at the U.S. State Department. Currently the Syrian politician is on an official visit to Moscow, where he learned of his dismissal.

“By the Decree of the President, the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Qadri Jamil shall be relieved of his duties due to the fact that he was absent without permission at the Government meetings and did not perform his duties properly. In addition, he put forward some initiatives abroad and has meetings without consent by the government, and exceeded his powers,” the official Syrian state television announced today.

For the Deputy Prime Minister Jamil this announcement came as a total surprise. The politician, who represents an “inner” moderate opposition, being the leader of the Syrian Popular Front for Change and Liberation, and becoming the deputy prime minister last summer, said he had no information about his dismissal.

The unauthorized contacts by Qadri Jamil that infuriated his superiors could be the weekend meetings with representatives of the U.S. State Department. It was the first official meeting of a high-ranking representative of the Syrian regime with U.S. diplomats since the beginning of the conflict. According to media reports, at the meeting they discussed “the need to urgently convene a “Geneva 2″ peace conference and ensure participation of the Syrian opposition in that conference.”

The same questions were discussed at today’s meeting between Qadri Jamil and the Russian Deputy Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Moscow, as reported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

The news of Qadri Jamil dismissal also coincided with the statement by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on telephone conversations between Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry on preparing for the “Geneva 2” conference, held “at the initiative of the American side.” It is not known whether the political career of Qadri Jamil was discussed during these negotiations. However, Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle could suspect the Deputy Prime Minister Jamil of attempts to negotiate with the United States and the Russian Federation in order to present himself as the chief initiator of the Geneva 2, and the best opposition candidate to lead a transitional government, should such government be formed, as suggested by experts.

How Damascus agreed to participate in the Geneva 2

Following the meeting between the foreign ministers of Russia and Syria, held in early September in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that “the parties have reached an agreement on practical steps to be taken in order to achieve a political settlement.” Damascus expressed its willingness to participate in the peace at the Geneva 2 conference on Syria, without any preconditions.