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.
Nope, just SOP for Islam and tribalism. It’s like watching wind wash the sand in a desert.
I’d love to see Saudi support the opposition in full with money and weapons...and see Al Quida flock there to help their Sunni brothers, while Iran goes all out to help Assad and see the whole thing devolve into a very bloody, very long civil war there that drains them all of money and time...and a whole lot of their fighting personnel and equipment.
That would be the best outcome for the US.
While we sit back...make an occassional comment about the inhumanity of it all, and then continue to arm Israel to the teeth and put together the plans to take down the Iranian nuclear program.
What better time to do it while Iran is worried about their biggest ally in the region (and the world for that matter).
But we need a new administration in place to maximize American interests in this thing, as opposed to seeking to minimize them.
OBAMA - THE MAN WHO DESPISES AMERICA
There’s apparently more to this story:
“The Tlasses were pampered by the regime because they were the guarantors of Sunni loyalty in central Syria,” Balanche said.
“But when they were no longer able to fulfill this role, there was no longer any cause to hold on to them, especially given that their predatory attitude was contributing to the explosive situation in Rastan.”
Basically, most of golden boy’s family had already left for Qatar. He was more or less that last man standing. In Muslim circles, long hair and a beard are pretty much an indication of Islamist tendencies. The real question is whether he was ever really religiously “moderate” in the first place, or merely a mole biding his time.
Neo-cons believe that inside every Muslim is an American waiting to jump out. Unfortunately, reality has taught us differently, that inside every moderate (TM) Sunni Muslim is an Islamist mass murderer waiting to jump out. There are moderate Muslims in the world. The problem is that most of them are non-Sunnis. It’s no coincidence that the vast majority of the freelance terrorist groups in the world, operating without government sponsorship, are Sunnis, funded by the kind of small donors who gave Islamists a 75% parliamentary majority in Egypt, and a near-majority in Tunisia.
If Tlass is anything like his father, Mustafa, Assad is probably better off without him. Mustafa apparently went out of his way to propagate anti-Semitic fictions, and was prone to making borderline insane statements:
In 1998, Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass boasted to al Bayan newspaper that he was the one who gave the green light to “the resistance” in Lebanon to attack and kill US marines and French soldiers, but that he prevented attacks on the Italian soldiers of the multi-national force “because he was in love with the Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida.”  Mustafa Tlass had also allegedly boasted to the National Assembly about atrocities committed against Israelis who fell captive in the Yom Kippur war. “I gave the Medal of the Republic’s Hero, to a soldier from Aleppo, who killed 28 Jewish soldiers. He did not use the military weapon to kill them but utilized the ax to decapitate them. He then devoured the neck of one of them and ate it in front of the people. I am proud of his courage and bravery, for he actually killed by himself 28 Jews by count and cash.” 
There are three missing Israeli soldiers in the Bekaa valley since the June 1982 war in Lebanon. Tlass allegedly told a Saudi magazine: “We sent Israel the bones of dogs, and Israel may protest as much as it likes.” 
During his career, Tlass also became known for colorful language. In 1991, when Syria was participating on the Coalition side in the Gulf War, Tlass stated that he felt “an overwhelming joy” when Saddam Hussein sent SCUD-missiles towards Israel. In 1999, Tlass caused a minor uproar in Arab political circles, when he denounced Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat as “the son of sixty thousand dogs and sixty thousand whores”. Earlier, in 1986, he had called Arafat an “idiot” and a “puppet of the Americans”. The long-standing conflict between the Assad regime and the Palestine Liberation Organization would not end until after Hafez Assad’s death in 2000.
In an interview which aired Russia Today TV on June 8, 2009 (as translated by MEMRI), Tlass claimed that Actress Gina Lollobrigida had once told him that he was the “one love in my life.” He also claimed that Lady Diana wrote him letters that “were full of love and appreciation.” He also claimed that Prince Charles has given him a submachine gun as a gift.
We are lucky Obama is keeping out of this mess.
But we have to prevent people like John McCain goading us into taking the side of the Rebels. The rebels are al Qaeda-Saudi Arabia-and the Sunni Muslims. McCain wants us to arm them and help them overthrow Assad and the Alawites. Russia is involved with this tar baby by supporting Assad.
Our enemies; Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the fundamental Sunnis, Al Qaeda and Assad are kept off balance by this war in Syria. Lets sit this war out. - tom
Here is follow-up to the Saturday election in Libya. According to the report, things went better than had been feared. Results are supposed to trickle out starting Monday.
Early conjecture after the Saturday election in Libya suggests that they may not follow the Egyptian model with the primary Islamist group winning. Let us hope Monday’s results confirm this.
See this is my point, for some reason alot of people on this site(which i love) would gladly kill millions of christians to protect israel, but seriously dont give a crap about middle eastern christians. Its been in our mentality since even the lebanese civil war, where christians were openly targetted by sunni muslims from lebanon and from other muslim countries. The only countries to offer support to christians were israel and later on SADDAM HUSSEIN(believe it or not!), while Reagan acted like an impotent old man and let our troops die and left, because like so many presidents before and after him, he was Saudi Arabia’s bitch.
Im sick and tired of helping muslim countries, I would love to see us help christians globally for once, would love to see a politically incorrect president talk about how he wants to safeguard christianity in the region where it was born.
In any case, my point is that a long protracted war is not in favor of the christians in the area, they will be the main losers even if they arent on any side. I would very much like to see christianity remain and flourish in the region as opposed to diminishing as it has been doing so for the last 100 years.
With the conflict in doubt (one side verses another side) am thinking the voting may have been more controlled than is being reported. Am thinking Putin counted the ballots.