Adding more fuel to the fire is the low profile that President Assad has been keeping in the aftermath of the Damascus campaign and assassination. The Monitor’s Nick Blanford writes that reports are flying that Assad and his family have fled Damascus and gone to one of the port cities of Latakia or Tartous, both of which are Alawite strongholds. State-run Syrian media report that Assad remains in Damascus.
Although if Assad has left for the Syrian coast, he may simply be doing so as part of family mourning for the death of his brother-in-law Shawkat, who is from the region. Opposition sources and experts note that a heavily guarded presidential palace is also in the area, and may be his destination.
“There are a number of signs that the regime is preparing a strategic retreat to the Alawite homeland on the Syrian coast,” Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute, tells the Monitor. “It’s more than just news reports that he is there.”