Blow for Assad as general defects to rebels
THE Assad regime suffered the most significant defection of the Syrian uprising yesterday when a general from one of the country's most famous families joined the rebels.
The desertion of Brig Gen Manaf Tlas, a senior commander in the Republican Guard, dealt a humiliating personal blow to President Bashar al-Assad and represented a major scalp for the opposition.
Brig Gen Tlas was once a confidant of the president, serving as a member of Mr Assad's small inner circle and the central committee of Syria's Ba'ath Party.
A pro-government website with links to the Syrian security services confirmed the defection, saying that Brig Gen Tlas had fled to Turkey but played down the impact of the development. "His escape does not mean anything," a security official was quoted by the Syriasteps website as saying.
But the defection would have reverberated across Syria because of the pedigree of his family name. Gen Mustafa Tlas, his father, was a long-serving defence minister and one of the most powerful people in Syria, playing a pivotal role in consolidating the president's hold on power after he succeeded his father Hafez al-Assad in 2000.
The defection could prompt other members of the Sunni elite who have remained loyal to the president to follow suit. (© Daily Telegraph, London)