If Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Shara manages to cross the border into neighboring Jordan, it will represent a new –but not decisive – blow for the Syrian regime. Al-Shara is from Daraa, the region that spawned the revolution against Bashar al-Assad after a group of children were arrested and tortured for writing anti-regime slogans. Daraa is an important passageway for dissidents and arms smugglers since it is located south of the capital Damascus, about an hour’s drive away. It is the gateway to Jordan, and this is why al-Assad’s forces have conducted a continuous spree of killings and bombings there for seventeen months, but as yet they have failed to quell the uprising.
Al-Shara’s significance lies in the fact that he is an integral part of the regime; he has known its darkest secrets for decades, unlike former Prime Minister Riad Hijab, who defected just forty days after being assigned to the post.
The Syrian regime is being hurt directly by the defection of its military and security leadership. This has happened on several occasions over the past two months; most recently with Yaarab al-Shara, Farouq’s cousin and a security official in Damascus, and prior to that with the defection of Manaf Tlass. The importance of these dissident leaders and officers lies in their support for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and their ability to support the rebels. The explosion that targeted a military command office last week, along with the attack on the national security building several weeks ago, appear to be the result of military defectors infiltrating and collaborating with staff on the premises.
The defection of a figure as important as Farouq al-Shara, the Vice President of the Republic, and the assignment of Lakhdar Brahimi as a U.N. envoy to Syria to discuss a peaceful end for the Assad regime, are two important events, but they will still not change anything in Damascus because of Russia’s determination to protect the regime at all levels. What will change the situation, topple the regime and end this tragedy, is if we pay attention to the split in the military: We must supply the FSA and its fighters with weapons and intelligence information. The Syrian revolution has completed the basic stages of change; it highlighted that the regime’s downfall is the desire of the majority of the Syrian people, gained international support, and then transformed into an armed confrontation as a result of the regime’s violence. It is now certain that the majority of the regime’s senior officials are willing to flee and that numerous members of the security and military forces are also willing to defect, but it will not be easy for them.
The regime has lost dozens of key figures, ministers, and security and military chiefs, but the stubborn head, Bashar al-Assad, still remains. He has displayed levels of ferocity and brutality that are unprecedented in our modern history. The calculated crimes he has committed against civilians over the past months have gone way beyond the cruelty of his father Hafez al-Assad, and even beyond the harshest dictators in the region such as Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.