As Syrian President Bashar Assad today chose a replacement for the prime minister who defected earlier this week, there were conflicting reports about just what’s happening in the key northern city of Aleppo.
The Assad regime claimed that its forces had retaken some territory in Aleppo from opposition fighters. The opposition said that wasn’t true. Aleppo is a valuable prize in the ongoing battle. As NPR’s Anthony Kuhn, who is monitoring the situation from Beirut, told our Newscast Desk, if Aleppo falls firmly into the hands of the opposition, “that would mean the establishment of a safe haven close to the Turkish border.” And, Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and biggest commercial center.
The man Assad has tapped to be the prime minister, The New York Times writes, is 48-year-old “Wael Nader al-Halqi … [who] had been minister of health, and is a Sunni Muslim from the southern town of Dara’a, where the uprising began with peaceful protests in March 2011. His loyalist credentials include heading his local branch of the ruling Baath Party from 2000 to 2004.”
According to The Associated Press, “the former premier, Riad Hijab, completed his defection by crossing into Jordan early Wednesday.”