Posted by Joshua on Monday, July 9th, 2012
Repercussions from the Tlass defection are still echoing. Sharmine Narwani claims his departure was not that important. Michel Kilo has recommended him as the transition leader of Syria. Others say it signifies the beginning of the end. Many opposition activists detest everything he stands for. I have tried to collect a cross-section of views on him.
The Wikileak articles are beginning to come out in greater numbers. At least one of the president’s emails discussed articles published on Syria Comment. – this one, for example, is a comment by Elie Elhadj, who wrote about Syria’s very serious water crisis on the pages of SC – here and here.This is a small bit of the original article:
“Investment in irrigation agriculture, which uses huge volumes of Syria’s finite water resources should be shifted to investing in low water using manufacturing industries based on rate of return criterion instead of political convenience or personal interest. Foreign currencies generated from exporting manufactured products, or from reducing the importation of manufactured goods, would be used to import foodstuffs. Agriculture in arid/semi arid Syria should be left to rain fed lands, with investment in modern technology to improve the yield and quality of rain fed produce. It should be remembered that irrigation schemes have left the water balance in five of Syria’s seven basins negative. In addition to the billions of dollars wasted on white elephant irrigation schemes, what a terrible loss of water that is!
This is his comment that Bashar picked up on – It came from an email that Elie sent to me and a few friends, including Camille Otrakji, who forwarded it to a friend who sent it to President Assad. The email was sent Feb 11, 2011 at 9:05 AM. President Assad was not upset by the insults to his father, as some journalists have suggested. He picked up on it because Syria was in the midst of its five year drought. He knew what a disastrous water crisis Syria faced and was trying to figure out how to reverse course – but of course – like so many of Syria’s problems, he failed to deal with it because it would have meant breaking too many eggs and potentially unraveling his regime and control.
Water resources and cotton plantation SCARY NUMBERS (from a discussion)
Email-ID 2105484 Date 2011-02-12 04:19:25 From firstname.lastname@example.org To email@example.com
Check زراعة و ري
All of Syria’s cotton production is done on irrigated lands, not rain fed. Of Syria’s estimated 13 billion m3 of irrigation water more than 4 billion m3 is used to grow cotton. A cotton t-shirt requires about 2.7 tons of water to produce. Cotton requires four times as much water to grow as wheat.
Syria’s emphasis on irrigation has been wrong. Syria should invest in improving the yield of rain fed lands. There was a threefold increase in the productivity of water in rain fed wheat production in north-west Europe between 1800 and 1950. And a further trebling by 1990.
The Tabqa Dam is an economic disaster. The yes-men around Hafiz Asad lacked the balls to stop an ignorant military officer from wasting billions of dollars on a white elephant, made by his propagandist to be one genius of a project.
The World Bank concluded that Syria’s government will need to recognize that achieving food security with respect to wheat and other cereals in the short-term as well as the encouragement of water-intensive cotton appear to be undermining Syria’s security over the long-term by depleting available groundwater resources.
Another discusses OneMiddleEast.org, which was a major effort led by Camille Otrakji to get Israelis and Syrians discussing the Golan and avenues to peace. I participated in the project and pushed it on SC. Unfortunately it was seen in Damascus as a breach of security and law. He asked Syria’s head of the National Security Council to look into it. According to an article in al-Akhbar English:
A story published by The Guardian in 2010 about Syrian and Israeli bloggers interacting with each other on the OneMideast.org website, perked his interest, and he requested that it be translated and sent to an individual named “bekhtiar.” (doc-id 2095860)
EXTRA: Opposition proposes top Syrian defector for president
Moscow (DPA) — Representatives of the Syrian opposition on Monday put forward Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, who defected earlier this month, to succeed President Bashar al-Assad. At a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, the opposition continued to insist that al-Assad must step down before a political dialogue can take place, according to the news agency Interfax.
Russia to suspend new arms to Syria: agencies
By Thomas Grove, MOSCOW | Mon Jul 9, 2012
(Reuters) – Russia will not deliver fighter planes or other new weapons to Syria while the situation there remains unresolved, the deputy director of a body that supervises Moscow’s arms trade was quoted as saying on Monday.
” … Unfortunately, Turkey made a very serious mistake in Syria. It thought that, as in Libya the regime would collapse quickly and would be replaced with the AKP’s “brothers” the Muslim Brotherhood.
UN peace envoy Kofi Annan is in Iran after finishing a round of talks with Syrian authorities in Damascus. The trip reinforces Annan’s belief that Tehran is one of the key players in finding a solution to the conflict in Syria.
Annan described his talks in Damascus as constructive, saying the sides agreed to move ahead with implementing a peace plan proposed by the envoy.
“We agreed to an approach which I will share with the opposition,” he told reporters.
During his visit, Annan met with both Syrian President Bashar Assad as well as the country’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
Damascus reiterated their commitment to Annan`s peace plan.
“In both meetings we reassured Annan of Syria’s commitment to implement the six-point plan and hope the other side is mutually committed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the UN and Arab League special envoy has arrived in Iran, Syria’s main ally in the region.
On Saturday Annan said that Iran should be involved in the resolution of the crisis, because it is an “actor” in the situation whose participation is necessary.
Speaking to Le Monde, the envoy stressed the role of Moscow and Teheran in dealing with the conflict in Syria, saying that there is “no alternative” to Russia’s participation in a diplomatic solution and that Iran also “cannot be ignored.”
While Annan was holding talks with Syrian authorities in Damascus, Moscow has conducted a round of negotiations with the Syrian opposition. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with a Syrian delegation led by Michel Kilo on Monday.
The opposition delegation stated that the question of removing President Bashar Assad from power is secondary, while their primary goal is the transition from violence to democracy.
Following the talks, Lavrov pointed out to the importance of the Syrian opposition having a unified platform. The foundation of this platform should be an inclusive dialogue between the authorities and the opposition, the Minister said.
Moscow has also invited another prominent opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), to come to Russia for talks. The delegation is expected to visit after July 10, the Foreign Ministry said, though no exact dates were announced.
The SNC has repeatedly said that it sees a solution for Syrian crisis only in the ouster of President Assad. The majority of Western countries consider the group to be the only “official” opposition. In April, Friends of Syria recognized the SNC as the “legitimate representative” of all Syrians.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized the West for clinging to its influence in the Arab world under the guise of “humanitarian operations.” He dubbed western involvement in Arab affairs as nothing more than a “rocket and bomb democracy.” At a meeting with top Russian diplomats Putin said that certain countries will do anything to retain the influence they have become accustomed to in the Arab world. He stressed that western nations often adopt a one-sided policy in Arab affairs that violates international law. RT’s Sean Thomas followed the address.
Interview with Assad, just recently conducted by the German publicist Jürgen Todenhöfer. The original English version.
Brig. Tlas Could be consensus solution
by Mohamed H.Hamdan in Damscus
Contributed to Syria Comment
The young Brigadier Tlas stopped wearing his military uniform and opted for civilian clothing months ago. He set up residence in Damascus, where he let his beard and hair grow long. Nobody expected that the aristocratic general with his boyish face and western life style could withstand Assad’s fall.
Gen. Manaf Tlas has let down his childhood friend President Bashar al-Assad. Tlas has forgotten memories which they shared, jokes they laughed at and Syria’s future they have drawn.
Michel kilo, a prominent figure in the Syrian opposition, told Russians in Moscow, ”Manaf Tlas is a good candidate to head a transitional government”. Kilo explained to the Russians that General Manaf Tlas was against “the Military- security solution of the regime.”
Syrian Activists feel worried now, some of them say Tlas’ defection is Plan B designed to protect Assad’s regime.
”Substituting Mr. Assad by Gen. Tlas with his military background and his deep relations can be Assad’s successor for the same Syria which protects the Russian and Iranian interests in the region.” Ahmed al-Khalaf, defected Lieutenant, based in Beirut, said.
Tlas relations with Mr. Assad became irreconcilable after the fierce assault on the Homs district of Bab Amr in February this year according to AFP. He was sidelined more than a year ago, after he was deemed unreliable.
Tlas’ close friends said that he did not like what he saw, and tried to do something to ease the crackdown, friends and opposition sources say. They credit him with intervening to negotiate local ceasefires.
Eyad Issa, close friend to Tlas family said “Manaf has been growing increasingly frustrated for months,” Tlas felt increasing dishonor as his hometown ‘al-Rastan’ /160 kilometers north of Damascus/ was being leveled and hundreds of his relatives fell dead or injured.
“He started to tell people he trusted that he wanted out, and that he has respect among the Free Syrian Army,” Issa said, referring to the rebel force that has attracted many officers and soldiers from Rastan.
Colonel. Adnan Ahmed, who joined Free Syrian Army (FSA), based in Turkey, has defended Brig.Tlass defection on ALJAZEERA TV. He said that al-Rastan with its 1146 officers is supporting Brig. Tlas. ”We know his intention to defect and now he did it.”
Peaceful demonstrations were silenced by the gun, prompting Rastan’s residents, many of whom served in the army and had the patronage of the Tlas family, to take up arms
Abdul-Razzak Tlas, Brig. Manaf’s cousin and a popular commander of the FSA in Homs and a former First Lieutenant in the Syrian army, is commanding the most powerful Brigades of FSA called al-Farouq Brigades which stand for 4 months in face of Syrian army artillery and bombardment in Homs district of Bab Amr.
Two weeks ago, Opposition sources have spoken of senior figures that are under suspicion of being potential defectors being held under virtual house arrest. Assad’s opponents have been trying to encourage as many of his entourage as possible to abandon him.
Munther Khaddam, well-known Assad’s opponent said ”when a cornerstone like Brig. Tlas defects the temple of Assad definitely will crack down’. ”Then a lot of secrets can be revealed”, added.
Syria’s government has lessened the impact of Tlas defection. A Syrian news website ”Syria steps” quoted a Syrian official on Thursday as saying: “His desertion means nothing, If Syrian intelligence had wanted to arrest him it would have.” But “It’s hard blow for the regime,” Abdul basset seida, the president of SNC said during Conference on Syria’s friends last week in Paris.
The French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the same and confirmed Tlas defection which meant that Assad’s inner circle “is beginning to understand that the regime is unsustainable”. Fabius added.
US secretary of State Mrs. Hilary Clinton said Tlas defection suggests Assad’s insiders, Army are voting with their feet.”
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, Syria’s NATO-member neighbor, agreed: “Every day, generals, colonels, officers are coming, and we have, I think, around 20 generals and maybe 100 high-ranking officers, colonels,” he told France 24 television.
Brigade 105 now according to well-informed source said Brigade 105 has been mixed with Maher al-Assad’s Brigade (Brigade 4) and Brigade 14 for special missions) after defecting 1200 soldier whom run away after their brig has defected between them about 43 high ranked officers – general and colonels
Syrian opposition with its armed wing FSA still looks to hear from the young general. What Kilo has recommended to Russian seems to be the waiting speech they are looking for.
”Brig. Tlas is consensus solution where all parties should agree on,” al-Khalaf said.
A Word on the Tlass Departure - by Maysaloon
Firstly I don’t think the Tlass family are members of any “aristocracy”. ….So why is he now being pushed as a potential successor to Assad?….
This is a particularly devastating and humiliating option for many Syrians… Tlass might be the least worst option, but this still isn’t good enough for a country that has given over fifteen thousand lives for its freedom, and tens of thousands of refugees and prisoners. I doubt that all these people died to replace an Alawite dictator with a Sunni one, but I’m confident about one thing, and that is that Syria’s freshly grown grass roots will now, and should remain, the final line of defence for the Syrian people’s liberties and fight against oppression. It is now more vital than ever that these grass roots groups and coordination committees dig in and consolidate. The hard work really begins once Assad goes.
Manaf Tlass: “Nobody stopped him from leaving and nobody worked on him to stay.”
Syrian General Manaf Tlass: Neither Here Nor There
By Sharmine Narwani – Sun, 2012-07-08 23:47- The Sandbox
Since the news of his departure broke a few days ago, Tlass has stayed quiet. It is unlikely that he has “defected” – that would suggest he is joining the opposition, and it is doubtful that any but the most opportunistic of them would embrace a figure so closely associated with the Assad history in Syria.
But here’s a tidbit that hasn’t made the rounds yet in this well-hyped story: until very recently, Tlass was telling members of Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle that he wanted the post of Minister of Defense.
“He believed he could help push forth a reform agenda, as he had envisioned with his old friend Bassel (al-Assad),” says an acquaintance of Tlass’.
A well-informed source close to the Syrian government tells me that Tlass had tested those waters last Spring before Assad announced a new cabinet in April 2011, from which he was excluded. In the early months of unrest in Syria, he had attempted to stem the crisis by mediating between the government and its opponents in various towns and cities, but had by most accounts not succeeded. Part of the problem appears to be that the Assad establishment did not put its weight behind his efforts after they faltered, choosing to pursue another strategy altogether. By August, as armed clashes and crackdowns escalated, Tlass was effectively sidelined by a regime that refused to entrust in his vision and was mistrustful of his family’s opposition credentials. He then simply stopped working, cut-off many of his ties with close friends and reigned in his legendary social life.
How does one just not go to work one day? A source explains that “Tlass’ military uniform was only 10% of his life anyway. The rest of his time was spent on running around, his social life, some business dealings. He was a privileged son of an important regime figure – that was his life and he had a sense of entitlement as did many others like him.”
But still Tlass apparently did not count himself out – he tried again for the top defense post in the lead-up to the last cabinet reshuffle, and was passed over a second time when Assad announced the new line-up on June 23.
The headlines this week that claim the “defection” of a major Syrian Army commander and a member of Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle lack a great deal of the nuance unique to Manaf Tlass’ case….
Tlass apparently felt snubbed by the president for not being promoted to Major General from his current status as Brigadier General, but importantly, is viewed within the army as a token regime appointment rather than a commander capable of leading his forces.
Is Tlass’ departure significant? Certainly, it has been useful for some perception-creating headlines. But he was neither a pivotal figure within the Syrian Army nor the political establishment. His importance was rather in relation to his father’s standing within the elder Assad’s coterie, and as a member of a leading Sunni family long associated with the regime.
The fact is, after almost a year of inactivity and relative isolation, Manaf was in political no-man’s land in Syria. Scorned by people in Rastan for his continued allegiance to Assad, and marginalized by the regime in both the political and military spheres, Tlass had nothing to gain or lose by sitting tight.
“I don’t blame him. He had to make a choice,” says a Syrian who knows Tlass. “Nobody stopped him from leaving and nobody worked on him to stay,” says another, who knows the elder Tlass well.
So he went to France. End of story. But that won’t stop the spin.
The final chapter in Syria is being written today – al-Arabiya
By Jihad el-Khazen, Monday, 09 July 2012
What is left for the Syrian regime after Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, commander of Brigade 105 of the Republican Guard, has defected?
There was a time when Manaf was being groomed to become the defence minister, like his father Lt. General Mustafa Tlas before him. Manaf had become eligible owing to his rank in the Republican Guard and the ruling party, and I believe the delay was only because of his young age.
Mustafa Tlas was one of the main pillars of the regime, perhaps even its backbone…..
Today in Syria, the final chapter of a popular uprising is being written, and I insist that the regime could have avoided it, had it not chosen the military-based solution and its stubborn insistence upon it, even when it failed month after month, making the problem worse.
Yet the solution will not come from a meeting in Cairo, Geneva or Paris, but from the heart of Syria itself.
The heart of the Arab needs an urgent heart surgery, but this will only succeed if it is to be performed by Syrians themselves.
From the Comment Section: “Shabih” writes:
What really pisses me off is that way you write about this “Sunni” [Tlas] being in favor of negotiation and dialogue while the “Alawite leadership” was in favor of killing and heavy-handedness. You write this while ignoring that many in your audience know that the “Alawite leadership” you speak of has been following the strategy of “negotiation, flexibility, and compromise” all over Syria. How many times have we heard of the rebels and army agreeing to pull back in cities? How many times have we heard about Bashar al-Asad holding personal dialogue with various delegations from cities and villages from all parts of Syria and beyond?…
The whole point is to paint a picture of Sunni vs Alawite. This whole crisis started because Sunnis wanted freedom and Alawites would prefer to kill them. That is the narrative you want to peddle while carrying the title of Syria expert…. I really can’t stand reading your material anymore. I might as well be reading WINEP’s propaganda.
Deputy PM Says Gas Shortages Structural – Syria Report
There is no structural solution to the domestic gas shortages facing the country as long as sanctions are in place, Qadri Jamil, the new deputy Prime Minister in charge of domestic trade and consumer production said, blaming “sons of b…” for the hike in prices.
Power Cuts Rise as Temperatures Increase – Syria Report
The Ministry of Electricity is raising the daily number of hours of power cuts across Syria as rising temperatures lead to an increase in demand for electricity.
Starting July 2, the Public Establishment for the Distribution and Exploitation of Electrical Energy has increased power outages in Damascus to 3 hours per day from 2 hours previously.
In Aleppo, the country’s second largest city, power cuts are being increased from 3 to 4 hours a day, while in the rest of the country, power cuts are increasing to 5 hours a day. In each case the cuts are broken into two periods, one in the morning and another in the afternoon or evening…..
“No sect’s please; we’re Syrian” – Open Democracy – Syrian opposition activist, Rita, who must remain anonymous for her own safety, tells of a particularly harrowing encounter she had with the Syrian shabiha and how she managed to survive.
Nikolaos van Dam, How to Solve or Not to Solve the Syrian Crisis?, Orient, III-2012, pp. 31-37
Fear of Iran and Syrian Bloodletting, July 09, 2012
By Meir Javedanfar
Meir Javendanfar looks at how Western sanctions on Iran are enabling violence in Syria to continue.
Egypt: Morsi Moves to Restore Islamist Parliament – By: Steve Hendrix and Ernesto Loñdono | The Washington Post
The post-Arab Spring rise of Islamist leaders appeared to bypass Libya, where a coalition led by a Western-educated political scientist led the early vote count.
A dramatic uptick in violence and political instability in Iraq have raised fears that Baghdad once again is tilting toward civil war. A half-year after the U.S. military left Iraq, the war-weary country is beset by violence as insurgents take advantage of the power struggles between the country’s ethnic and sectarian factions.