Skip to comments.Key military leader defects from Assad regime, flees Syria
Posted on 07/06/2012 6:51:19 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
A key ally of Bashar Assad within the Syrian military has changed sides and fled the country, joining the opposition in exile. General Manaf Tlas commanded a brigade of the Republican Guard, the elite unit whose loyalty to the regime usually exists without question:
A powerful military officer and longtime close associate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has defected to the opposition and was on his way to Paris, where foreign ministers from Friends of Syria countries are meeting, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed Friday.
In what could be the first sign of a crack in the Assad regimes inner circle, Maj. Gen. Manaf Tlas fled to Turkey this week before heading for France to join his father, a once-powerful former defense minister, a close family friend told Reuters.
The pro-Assad Web site Syria Steps was the first to report that Tlas, who heads the elite Republican Guard, had joined the opposition. It appeared to be the most senior defection since the uprising against Assad began more than 15 months ago.
The Web site of the Tartous Today newspaper, which supports the Assad government, later carried a report from the Shaam News Network saying that Tlas had disappeared in the Syrian capital, Damascus, two days earlier but that the network had not published the information because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The news cheered the gathering of ex-pats in Paris this week meeting with representatives of Western and Arab nations, even if no one was sure what Tlas’ intentions are. It also boosted the efforts of Western diplomats attempting to pressure Russia and China to back away from their client dictator:
The defection of a Syrian general who is a personal friend of President Bashar al-Assad gave a huge boost to anti-government rebels as Western and Arab states met them in Paris on Friday to help prise Assad from power.
In some of the strongest U.S. remarks yet on a crisis that has divided the United Nations Security Council along Cold War lines, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Paris conference that Russia and China must “pay a price” for blocking U.N. sanctions that might press Assad into stepping down.
As she spoke, Manaf Tlas, a brigade commander in the Republican Guard who attended military college with Assad and fled to Turkey this week, was on his way to Paris, where his father, Assad’s father’s defense minister, has also taken up residence, a close family friend told Reuters. …
“His defection is big news because it shows that the inner circle is disintegrating,” said a Western diplomat who knew Tlas in Damascus. “Manaf does not give the impression that he is a big thug, but he mattered in the military.”
In Washington, a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said: “General Tlas is a big name and his apparent decision to ditch Assad hurts, even though it probably didn’t come as a surprise.
“Tlas lately seems to have been on the outs, but he’s got charisma and some smarts. If he joins the insurgents that could be significant.”
If Tlas felt that unhappy within an elite unit that presumably enjoys special status and favors from the regime, he’s probably not the only senior officer to do so. That puts Assad in a very uncomfortable position. He can’t afford a purge in the middle of an insurrection, but he may not be able to afford letting it go, either. How can he assure his own safety — presumably the overriding mission of the Republican Guard — without having assurances of their loyalty? Tlas was supposedly a personal friend, and he turned out to be disloyal, at least to Assad. That’s a situation that most dictators end up experiencing, and usually toward the very end of their regimes.
This has the potential to be very embarrassing for Russia and China as well. One report has Tlas disillusioned over civilian massacres conducted by the Syrian military, to which Russia has been giving material support. If Tlas testifies to that in public, Russia may have no choice but to withdraw its support, although neither Russia or China have been known to be terribly moved by international opinion. Both might prefer to avoid the spectacle altogether by providing the necessary inducements to get Assad to leave on his own, while it can still be done.
Assad certainly isn’t on the cusp of collapse, at least not yet. However, events are moving in that direction, and we may be reaching the point where that outcome is inevitable.
The BBC profile says he had been sidelined for a year:
He was reportedly under a form of home arrest since May 2011, following his meeting with the opposition to try to start a political dialogue and also because of his opposition to the clampdown.
In Syria now it is the Sunnis vs the minority Alawites.(Assad and company)
The Sunnis will have al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia,and the Muslim Brotherhood on their side.
The Alawites (a Shiite heresy) will have Shiite Iran on their side.
The best thing we can do is stay out of this war because neither warring side is good for us. The longer this Muslim war goes on the better for us. -Tom
What’s up with all this nonsense that Assad’s days are numbered? Unless the West decides to intervene, Assad is ruthless enough to crush the Sunni rebellion.
Along those lines, the US should fast and furiously train its best minds to that task and end. Take someones forté and put it to good use. Somebody like E. Holder comes to mind...
from your keyboard to God's eyes. Full agreement Tom!
Just hoping that while all this crap is going on, Iran doesn’t sneak a nuke into Israel.
“Understand your thoughts EQAndy. Can say this, Iran would be more than stupid to do such (imho).”
Probably, but who will say something or for that matter do something?
The scenario would play out where Iran does something then everyone in the UN tells Israel not to retaliate, or else.
I am more concerned with how this is all going to play out in October. Just a feeling, but I see an October Suprise with this and not a good one.
Hamas is changing sides also, Looks like the Brotherhood is pulling strings:
Gaza’s prime minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh will travel to Cairo within the next several weeks to meet with Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s newly elected Islamist president. The announcement, issued Thursday by a senior Palestinian official, comes within days of a meeting between Hamas central leader Khaled Meshaal and King Abdullah II of Jordan. These visits are taking place not long after Hamas was forced to distance itself from longtime patron Syria.
Hamas’ leadership had been headquartered in Damascus since the Hashemite Kingdom expelled the group in 1999. Hamas was part of a radical regional alliance that included Iran, Syria and Lebanese Shiite Islamist movement Hezbollah. This alignment of players successfully enhanced its influence in the region until the outbreak of the 2011 Arab uprising — especially once that uprising spread to Syria. The manner in which the Syrian regime cracked down on the largely Sunni uprising created a major problem for Hamas. As a Sunni Arab entity, Hamas could not remain aligned with an Alawite regime reportedly killing thousands of people while suppressing a largely Sunni rebellion.
At the same time, the standing of Hamas’ fellow Islamists throughout the region has dramatically improved. Islamists made significant gains in elections in North Africa. From Hamas’ point of view, the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB’s) electoral victories in Egypt have been the most significant. Egypt is the main Arab player in the region; because of the diplomatic relations it has held with Israel since 1978, Cairo has acted as the chief mediator in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
It will be critical to watch how Egypt’s first Islamist president connects with Israel. Meanwhile, Hamas will focus its attention on enhancing its influence in Jordan and by extension the West Bank, which is currently under the control of Hamas’ main rival, the secular Fatah movement, whose fortunes have long been dwindling. Perhaps the biggest shift in Hamas’ orientation will be eventually seen in Syria, where the Islamist organization will increasingly throw its support behind the Sunni-led rebellion against its former Alawite patrons in Damascus.
Assad’s toast. Defections signal the end just like with Saddam’s regime and Ghaddafi’s regime. No doubt Assad will be smart enough to use a poison pill or a bullet rather than wait to be executed.
You guys kidding me? You want another Hillery Sharia law government like Tunesia. Libya and Egypt??? Give me a break!! Go Assad ___ GOOOO!!!Kill those people. now!!
I don’t want Sharia government there. I want a Muzzie on Muzzie blood bath. The longer they spend killing each other, the safer Israel is.
As long as they are fighting each other it is a win-win situation for the U.S.
Muslim killing Muslim, no U.S. troops involved, no U.S. money. Let the Russians and/or Chinese decide which side they want to back. Maybe they can waste billions of dollars.
For those who are also interested in activity in Libya, here is a rundown on the messy election that is supposed to take place on this Saturday. I don’t know if the future of Syria will be even messier.
General Manaf Tlas commanded a brigade of the Republican Guard, the elite unit whose loyalty to the regime usually exists without question
Wait, how is israel safer in your scenario? If the opposition win, then israel will be virtually surrounded by sunni muslim extremists who make shiites look like choir boys. The same extremists we have been fighting since 9/11. You seem to have forgotten that with the exception of the skirmishes with sadr in iraq, the majority of the fighting came from the side of the sunnis, who are attacking everyone in iraq, and have basically run the christians out of the country. When I look at the fundamentalist muslim countries and I see Iran and Saudi arabia as a comparison, it is easy to see that Iran is the lesser evil. A country which allows other religions, has the largest church in the middle east, even has a jewish member in parliament; or a country which bans churches, bans jewish people from visiting, arrests you if you have more than one bible. There is a clear lesser evil here, and obamas arab spring has caused sunni extremists to take power in every country, for the balance of power to stay even remotely close to the middle syria needs to stay in alawite power. If it doesnt, then iran is practically alone and the entire muslim world will be run by extremists. You really think an israel surrounded by the muslim brotherhood is safer, than an israel neighboured by a strongman who clamps down on religious extremism?
In any case, if you truly want a sunni-shiite war, you would actually want the shiite side to be a little more powerful, since theyre only like iraq syria and iran now, vs the rest of the sunnis. Would make a more protracted war to keep syria on the side of the shiites.
Didn’t say I wanted a Sunni country there. Said Israel would be safer if the muzzies hacked each other to death there. I don’t care if it lasts 20 years.
Keep us out of it.If Iraq, Bosnia, Lebanon and Afghanistan has taught us anything, it taught us that the Muzzies hate us and do not deserve our help.
He’ll eventually be teaching at Stanford.