Friday, July 6, 2012

Syrian General Defects

Caption: In December, 2003, Syrian soldiers carrying automatic weapons patrol a street in Damascus - not the most welcome sight in Syria these days, I suspect.

Image credit: Antonio Milena/Agencia Brasil/Wikimedia

Things may slowly be getting better in Syria. The BBC reports today:

A Syrian general close to President Assad has defected, delivering "a hard blow for the regime", French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said.

Brig Gen Manaf Tlas fled Syria via Turkey, his family confirmed.


Gen Tlas, believed to be in his mid-40s, is a commander of a unit of the elite Republican Guard. As a young man he attended military training with President Assad.

Syria Manaf Tlas defection 'hard blow' for Assad

The article goes on to quote "sources" who said that BGEN Tlas has been under house arrest for over a year. Al Jazeera reports that the reason he was in disfavor with Assad is:

According to the source with close ties to Damascus, Tlas had embarked on several unsuccessful reconciliation missions between government loyalists and rebels in Rastan and the southern province of Daraa.

A member in the elite Republican Guard, Tlas was sidelined more than a year ago, after he was deemed unreliable.

Months later he gave up his military uniform and opted for civilian clothing. He set up residence in Damascus, where he let his beard and hair grow long.

Another source in Damascus told AFP news agency that Tlas' relations with the authorities became irreconcilable after the fierce assault on the Homs district of Bab Amr in February this year.

Syrian general close to Assad defects

The AJ article goes on to provide a bit of background story, in which Tlas' father, who was Syria's defense minister at the time, was implicated in putting down a rebellion in the Hama Massacre back in the 1980s. The picture that emerges from these two articles is that the younger Tlas got the message that following your conscience is a good thing to do in such circumstances.

In any event, Tlas was, at least until the time of his house arrest, part of President Assad's inner circle - the sort of person he should have been able to rely on to support him. That Tlas has seen fit to disappoint him, and might join the rebel cause in sympathy if not in fact, looks to be a sign that Assad is losing his grip on the country.

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