Posted by Joshua on Friday, July 6th, 2012
How important is the Tlass Defection
Absolutely important – The Tlass family has been at the heart of the regime from the beginning. They are the keystone of the Sunni-Alawi alliance that has cemented the regime for 4 decades.
Abdul Halim Khaddam and the Tlass family were the two leading Sunni families in the state from the beginning, when Hafiz al-Assad, the architect of the regime, built the structures that have endured since. Bashar preserved the blueprint drawn up by his father.
Vice President Khaddam defected in 2005. His departure sent a shudder through the regime, but this time is different. The Tlas defection sends the sign that the regime is done for. No longer is this uprising merely about angry young men in the countryside. It has reached to the very top. The elite Sunnis are looking for the exit door – but it will be hard to replicate this defection. Manaf got the golden parachute into Paris. His family is all out – his father, brother, wife and children. He planned this carefully. He has the power and the means.
Other generals have no bodyguards, no visas, no money…. It will be a long and painful process for most to defect.
What is more the Alawite officers have their backs to the wall.
The regime will not just collapse. This is not “The Tipping Point” but it is very significant for morale. It sends a message: the game is up.
[End of Landis analysis]
Manaf Tlass’ declaration As issued by international press and media [Sent to me by a reporter for verification. It sounds correct but I cannot verify]
As issued by international press and media, I have just left Syria.With the will to remain faithful to my military principles and loving feelings towards Syria, I have always tried to fulfill my duty with rightness, in order to preserve unity for Syria and its people.I did not joined the armed forces to see this army harm its own people, without giving systematically a chance to political solutions.Thus, because I was in complete opposition with the unjustified violence and crimes committed by Assad’s regime in the past months, I was progressively dismissed from my place of duty in the armed forces.Today, I call for all my comrades in armed forces, whatever their rank in the hierarchy, who are dragged into this fight against their Syrian fellows and against their own ideals, to end supporting this regime.I recognize the legitimacy of the fight of the opposition members to the regime, particularly the ones on the ground. In this respect, let me be grateful to those who made it possible for me to leave the Syrian territory where my own person and family were threatened.In the coming days, I will make a statement on my motives and the possibilities that the future offers me.Long life to Syria!General Manaf Tlas
By DAN BILEFSKY, ALAN COWELL and NEIL MacFARQUHAR, July 6, 2012 – New York Times
PARIS — Opponents of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria met here on Friday with their international sponsors to intensify pressure for his removal, buoyed by word that Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, a commander in the elite Republican Guard, and a member of the Damascus aristocracy, had defected and fled the country….
“Here you have more than 100 countries meeting to support the Syrian resistance with further sanctions, with humanitarian funds and with the demand that Bashar al-Assad be brought before the courts,” Mr. Fabius told Europe 1 radio earlier….
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, Tuesday called the “Friends of Syria” forum redundant after the weekend talks in Geneva, saying that the participation of more than 100 countries in Paris made it “impossible to have serious dialogue.”…
“The main elephant in the room is the lingering divisions among the Syrian opposition,” said one senior official. “The main challenge is to get the Syrian opposition to act in concert. They still need to get their act together.”
But Ms. Kadmani, the Syrian National Council spokeswoman, insisted that the Syrian opposition was united over the goal of overthrowing Mr. Assad and that criticism of the opposition was being used by the west to distract from its own lack of political will. “Criticizing the opposition is being used as a pretext by the international community to distract from their own divisions and lack of determination,” she said….
Senior Syrian military officer reportedly defects to Turkey – Liz Sly – Wash Post
ANTAKYA, Turkey — Pro-government news outlets in Syria reported Thursday that a powerful military officer and longtime close associate of the Assad family had fled to Turkey, in what could be the first sign of a crack in the regime’s inner circle.
Has the bloody ‘Arab Spring’ been a success?
by Nikolaos van Dam in Global Perspectives
I have, from the beginning, been opposed to the phrase “Arab Spring,” especially because it was hailed in its initial stages (and also later on) so over-enthusiastically – almost naively – and positively. It must have been obvious enough to those who know the Middle East that it would proceed very differently and be far less rose-colored than what was popularly believed. The enthusiasm in the West was often a form of wishful thinking – and it still is – even though the moment where everything appeared so promising is gradually being replaced by expectations that are clearly a lot less favorable and more realistic. Unfortunately, the so-called Arab Spring cannot yet really be called a success for any country, although some totalitarian regimes have been dismantled. This, of course, can be considered an important achievement in itself…..
It can, rationally speaking, also be argued that in some cases it would have been wiser to do nothing or not intervene rather than do the wrong thing with disastrous consequences….. In the West, one is often unjustly fearful of a democratic Islamic movement, thinking that Islam and democracy are incompatible, whereas a country such as Indonesia provides a strong example that Islam and democracy go very well together…..
It would be more likely that Assad’s authoritarian regime is followed by another one, the main difference being (hopefully) that the new regime might be more willing to effectuate drastic political reforms…..
For Top Syrian Defector, a Path Less Traveled
Wall Street Journal
Syria opposition rifts give world excuse not to act
Published: Wednesday, 4 Jul 2012 | CAIRO (Reuters)
A brawl at a meeting of the Syrian opposition this week in Cairo put on display the divisions among those struggling to oust President Bashar al-Assad and provides an excuse for world powers who have been wary of intervention to sit on their hands.
The row that spilled into the marble-lined corridors of a five-star Cairo hotel on Tuesday came at the end of a two-day meeting sponsored by the Arab League that had begun with appeals from Arab and Turkish ministers for a show of unity.
There was little sign of solidarity from the outset as the 200 or so members of Syrian opposition groups and activists, ranging from Islamists to secularists, most of them living in exile, haggled over the shape of a post-Assad Syria.
“Such disputes will tarnish the image of the opposition and destroy the spirits of our rebel fighters inside,” said activist Gawad al-Khatib, 27, who watched in tears of frustration when Kurdish activists stormed out after trading blows with rivals inside the meeting hall. Opponents shouted abuse as they left….The Cairo meeting, one of the biggest such gatherings of Assad’s opponents, was supposed to help rally the opposition around broad principles for a new Syria and to appoint a follow-up committee that would have acted as their face to the world.
It fell short of that. They could not agree on a committee and many left with reservations about the main documents presented to them, which outlined principles on governing Syria in transition and drafting a new constitution……
The groups all backed broad principles for a future democratic state, even if agreement on details eluded them. “We can handle this later on,” he said. After Kurds stormed out, Radwan Ziadeh, a leader in the opposition Syrian National Council, said fresh discussions would be held on Wednesday evening to bridge gaps. But the overture was rejected by Kurdish National Council leader Morshed Mashouk, who said he would not sit with “those narrow-minded people.”
The senior diplomat sought to explain the often heated sessions and short tempers by saying: “Everyone wants everything now. When they meet they all have their grievances”.
But he said world powers, whatever their worries, could not afford to stand idle. “This is dangerous. If the situation stays like this, we fear having a failed state in Syria,” he said.
…Going forward, Washington should consult closely with Sunni figures who choose to leave the regime, as they can play a key role in bringing Assad’s rule to an end. Sunnis such as Tlass could also serve as important figures in a post-Assad transitional government, able to keep the peace while elections are held for a new democratic Syria. Although Tlass and those like him may have blood on their hands, the opposition, which repesents the Sunni majority, would likely support them rather than any Alawite candidates Assad puts forward to participate in the “transitional government” outlined by Kofi Annan’s plan.
Halting Syrian Chaos by Robert D. Kaplan and Kamran Bokhari
July 4, 2012 | Stratfor
What if Syrian President Bashar al Assad really goes? There is an assumption in the West that the way to win a strategic victory over Iran and improve the human rights situation inside Syria is to remove the Syrian leader. It is true that Iran’s prospects of keeping Syria as its own Mediterranean outpost are probably linked with the survivability of al Assad’s regime. But his removal might well hasten the slide into chaos within Syria and in adjacent Lebanon, rather than slow it. Al Assad’s departure could even ignite a disintegration of the Syrian power structure into various gangs and militias…..
One can also argue that from a human rights perspective, chaos can be worse than authoritarianism. To wit, the record of decapitation as it refers to fierce authoritarian regimes in the Islamic world is grim. Libya has slid into low-level chaotic violence in which the writ of the central government is nonexistent throughout broad reaches of the country. Nearby Mali has erupted into anarchy — a situation ignited by regime change in Libya. The administration of George W. Bush decapitated the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, an act that cost perhaps 200,000 Iraqi lives over a few short years, even as Saddam had directly killed perhaps four times that many over the previous third of a century.
Then there are the examples of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. When the Soviet state collapsed, it led to a rash of ethnic and regional wars across the Caucasus and Central Asia — tens of thousands of people were killed in Tajikistan alone — while in Yugoslavia, ethnic war resulted in 140,000 lost lives. Remember that the dynastic regime of the al Assads in Syria was built on an east bloc model during the height of the Cold War….
Regional stability and moral considerations both require a transitional phase in Syria, not cold turkey democracy. Cold turkey democracy coupled with regime collapse in Syria, given the historical record, risks bloody anarchy. And a transitional phase may require an implicit deal between the United States and Iran. Iran and the United States have a record of dealing with each other behind the scenes; the Bush administration and the ayatollahs did likewise in Iraq even as they fought each other there.
The Iranians, like the Americans, are already looking beyond al Assad. They are identifying generals and leading businessmen who could rule in his place and maintain the overall regime structure. There may come a point where American and Iranian interests in Syria overlap at least to the extent of agreeing on al Assad’s replacement. Though, to repeat, the situation in Syria will probably have to further deteriorate before reaching that stage. Iran has to be made to feel that al Assad is no longer an option. We are not there yet. The fact that Syrian air defenses were able to shoot down a Turkish plane without incurring a military response means al Assad is still formidable.
The real horse-trading, if and when it comes, may involve Turkey and Iran. Turkey wants to replace the entire regime structure; Iran wants the opposite. That’s why both Ankara and Tehran will need to compromise, identifying high-ranking Syrians, probably military, who will protect each country’s interests and upon whom a new regime can be based. If Turkey and Iran can reach some sort of agreement, it can then be blessed by both the United States and Russia…..
Syria’s situation is dire. From both a moral and geopolitical point of view, fighting a proxy war with Iran and Russia there is less desirable for the United States than reaching out to them.
One Last Chance for Diplomacy as Syria Declares a Civil War
Syria’s Last Chance – Paul Salem – Carnegie
op-ed, National | Paul Salem writes that this is the last chance for diplomacy in Syria. If the country does not step back from the brink, the depth and breadth of violence will increase dramatically…..
Moscow is in close contact with the Syrian regime as well as with hundreds of officers in the Russian-trained and equipped security forces. It will also host the Syrian opposition later this month. There is still a chance that Russia can engineer a resolution.
Although there has been much talk of a “Yemeni model”, what Russia is contemplating might be closer to an Egyptian model: in Egypt, the armed forces assisted in the “soft” removal of the president and his inner circle while preserving their own power and continuing to dominate the political, security and constitutional processes.
In any case, if Mr Putin is able to translate the Geneva communique into results on the ground, the worst will be avoided and the country might actually enter into a managed transition.
Jihadists claim Syria attacks
By ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY, Associated Press – 1 hr 7 mins ago
BEIRUT – An al-Qaida-inspired group claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks across Syria, the latest evidence that extremists are exploiting the chaos to make inroads in another Middle Eastern country.
The Syrian regime has long blamed terrorists for the 16-month-old revolt, and the presence of al-Qaida groups creates new difficulties for Arab and Western countries trying to help force President Bashar Assad from power.
The opposition and the rebel Free Syrian Army deny having any links to terrorism, and say they do not have the desire or the capabilities to carry out massive suicide bombings and other al-Qaida-style attacks.
On Tuesday, the SITE monitoring group, which tracks jihadist chatter on the Internet, said the Al-Nusra Front released statements on extremist websites in late June claiming the attacks were to avenge the killings of Syrians by the government.
One of the attacks targeted a pro-regime television station in the town of Drousha, south of the capital, Damascus, on June 27. Seven people were killed in the attack on Al-Ikhbariya TV.
Al-Nusra said the station is an arm of the regime and the attack sought to make the station “taste from the cup of torture” and force every member of the regime to wonder: “When will my turn come?” The statement included photos of 11 men it said were kidnapped in the attack.
….On June 22, two groups of Circassian refugees from Syria, totaling 31 people, arrived in Nalchik. Nine of them were resettled in the homes of relatives, while the rest were accommodated in resort hotels. Beslan Khagazhei, a member of the Peryt organization, told the Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) website that more than 220 refugees have arrived in Kabardino-Balkaria since the start of the civil war in Syria (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, June 23).
On June 18, the seventh Circassian Day took place at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Walter Richmond, an American historian who is about to publish a book about the Circassian genocide, delivered a speech at the gathering. He assessed Circassian losses during the acute phase of genocide inflicted by the Russian Empire on the Circassian lands. “Based upon all the documentary evidence, my conservative estimate is that between 320,000 and 400,000 people died in the period October 1863-April 1864,” he said. “Many more died en route to Turkey and after their arrival there, increasing the estimated death toll to a minimum of 625,000. Assuming an 1860 population of 1.5 million and an annual growth rate of two percent, the current population of Circassia would be approximately thirty million. The actual Circassian population worldwide, by contrast, is between four and six million, with only 700,000 living in the Russian Federation.” Richmond concluded his speech with a call to the international community to become aware of the tragic events that took place 150 years ago near the planned site of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
CNN: Al-Assad: Don’t compare us to Egypt
The Syrian president says his country’s opposition movement has failed to duplicate the kinds of mass protests that unfolded in other Arab nations.
The Little Syrian Town That Could
The amazing protest posters of occupied Kafr Anbel.
BY DAVID KENNER | JULY 5, 2012
Gary Gambil, “Bashar Assad can always find refuge with the Alawites” (National Post, Toronto)
…..For Assad, staying and fighting to the bitter end doesn’t mean going down with the ship. When the day comes that he can no longer stave off the fall of Damascus, his minions can easily fall back to Alawite areas in the mountains and coastal plains of northwestern Syria. Tehran, preferring a fragmented Syria to a unified hostile Syria, will happily continue providing them with arms and financing. Even with Turkey and the Arab Gulf states supporting opposing proxies, former regime forces and affiliated Alawite paramilitaries (shabiha) can hold out for years. Having intervened extensively in Lebanon for decades, they have the perfect skill set for surviving the Lebanonization of Syria.
…..When the time comes, Assad won’t have much difficulty rallying Alawites (and many other non-Sunnis) behind the de facto cantonization of Syria. Given centuries of pre-existing Sunni hostility to heterodox Muslims and the scale of regime atrocities during the past four decades, Alawite fears of violent retribution are well-grounded and ripe for exploitation. Because the regime has heavily suppressed independent Alawite religious and social institutions over the years, the community has little capacity to mobilize around alternative leaders. By hook or by crook, Assad will lead it into the abyss.