In the past few days, Bashar al-Assad has appointed a new Defense Minister (Ali Abbas) and Chief of Staff (Abdul Karim Ibrahim).
Defense Minister Abbas replaced the retired Minister Ali Ayoub. Meanwhile, the appointment of a new chief of staff constitutes an important indication after the post was left empty for four years. And, in practice, the chief of staff position is much more important than that of the Minister of Defense.
Two theories have prevailed since 2018, when Ali Ayoub, was promoted from chief of staff to defence minister, without a replacement chief of staff being appointed. The most prominent theory for leaving the position vacant is that the post was handled by the Russian Operating Room at the Staff Headquarters in Damascus. Under the alternative theory, Ali Ayoub continued handling chief of staff duties, despite taking over as defence minister.
Whatever the correct theory, their significance was the same for observers and specialists in Syrian military affairs. Ali Ayoub, a figure close to the Russians, was described as a Moscow man within the military “establishment.” Whether he was in charge of the chief of staff or a Russian operating room had handled the post for the past four years, the outcome was the same.
Now, Ali Ayoub, the “foundation,” is leaving altogether, given that he has reached the age of 70. Was he referred for retirement, only because the law put an end to his service at this age? Of course not. The regime ignores the “law” whenever it wants. Ayoub’s retirement is not related to his age but is likely linked to a suitable circumstance that the regime’s head, Bashar al-Assad, is taking to weaken part of Russian influence within the military establishment. Russia’s preferred man within the army not only retired but also withdrew the chief of staff position from Moscow’s grasp. This timing, when the Russian leadership is completely focused on the war in Ukraine, is the best time to make this change.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.