Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Is Tlass’s defection not important? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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One of the officials associated with the tyrant of Damascus rushed to say that the defection of Brigadier General Manaf Tlass “means nothing” adding “if Syrian intelligence had wanted to arrest him it would have”. So can we believe this statement? Is it possible that Tlass’s defection is not important to the al-Assad regime, which is arresting and killing all those who oppose it, even children? This is not to mention the fact that Manaf Tlass was a childhood friend of al-Assad. The simple answer to this is: nonsense!

The defection of Manaf Tlass is like an earthquake; this represents a blow to the heart of the regime! Repressive regimes, such as the al-Assad regime, do not accept its prestige being compromised, which is something that it engineers out of iron and fire. So how can the defection of al-Assad’s childhood friend be meaningless? More than this, the defected brigadier general is the son of the former Syrian Defense Minister, Lieutenant General Mustafa Tlass, who himself was a personal friend and companion of Hafez al-Assad. Whilst Tlass senior did not defect from the regime of al-Assad senior following the Hama massacre, despite the fact that he was a Sunni military commander, as is his son today. Mustafa Tlass also knew Hafez al-Assad from before the coup that brought the al-Assad family to power in Syria. Therefore, the defection of Manaf Tlass is important, and represents a painful blow to the tyrant of Damascus. Tlass defected today, taking the opposite course of action pursued by his father – who remained loyal to the regime – which means that he is aware that there is no hope of al-Assad’s survival, and that the ship will inevitably sink.

The defection of Manaf Tlass, the childhood friend of al-Assad, means that an important repository of secrets about Bashar al-Assad is now open to the West. Tlass will have information regarding those close to Bashar al-Assad, the composition of his current regime, and what is truly going on in the corridors of Damascus today. This is not to mention that Tlass will have insider information regarding the regime’s thinking and management of its crimes and suppression of the peaceful Syrian revolution over the past 17 months. This is something that has persisted to the point that the Syrian people have been forced to take up arms to defend their lives and honor. He will also be aware of other information regarding the previous history of the al-Assad rule, whether in Syria, Lebanon or Iraq, and much more besides. In addition to this, Tlass’s defection means the death of the Sunni alliance with al-Assad, for this defection is an important indication that the Sunnis who benefit from allying with al-Assad are no longer able to justify the regime’s crimes against the Syrian people.

The story does not stop here, for the defection of Tlass – a commander of the Republican Guards, under Maher al-Assad – means that the scope of disunity and fragmentation in Syria has increased, even reaching the forces most trusted by the al-Assad family. This represents a crack in the unity of the regime, whilst it also means that al-Assad is no longer in control of Syria. This is something that has been stated by numerous sources, and something that I previously mentioned in this column. Therefore the defection of Manaf Tlass, which is accompanied by other defections from the Damascus regime, means that al-Assad is no longer in full control of all of Syrian territory. More importantly than this, al-Assad is no longer even in control of his own military leadership, and this automatically means that the al-Assad police state is incapable of differentiating between who is with it and who is against it, even in the circles closest to al-Assad personally!

Therefore, the claim that Manaf Tlass’s defection from the al-Assad regime is not important – as is being repeated by the regime itself – is nonsense. This is nothing more than an attempt to absorb this shocking earthquake, which will no doubt be followed by other fatal after-shocks.