WASHINGTON — The Obama administration says it is seeing growing signs that the Syrian elite, including people close to President Bashar Assad, are increasingly worried and beginning to prepare exit plans.
Two U.S. officials said Friday that one Assad family member has moved large amounts of money out of the country to avoid U.S. and other sanctions on the country and provide a nest egg for a life in exile. Similarly, a senior member of Assad's national security circle has very recently left the country and appears to have settled abroad, they said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified intelligence. They would not identify either the family member or the official or give specifics about the money transfer or the apparent defection. But the examples they cited suggest a new level of planning and worry among the senior regime.
In response to a question about whether the wealthy were fleeing the regime, the State Department said it had information that elite Syrians were looking for help from the opposition Syrian National Council in getting cash and relatives out of the country.
"We are beginning to see this trend accelerate," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.