News / Middle East

Ex-Syrian PM: Assad Government 'Enemy of God'

Riad Hijab, Syria’s defected former prime minister, speaks at a press conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Amman, Jordan, August 14, 2012.
Riad Hijab, Syria’s defected former prime minister, speaks at a press conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Amman, Jordan, August 14, 2012.
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VOA News
Former Syrian prime minister Riad Hijab appeared publicly Tuesday for the first time since his defection, calling President Bashar al-Assad's government an "enemy of God" and saying it is collapsing.

In a news conference in the Jordanian capital Amman, Hijab said he defected last week from the government and joined the 17-month Syrian uprising of his own will. He said he was not dismissed from his post as Syrian authorities claimed and urged other Syrian leaders to break from the government.

High-Profile Defectors from Syria

  • Prime Minister Riad Hijab defected to Jordan on August 6, two months after taking top post.
  • Nawaf Fares, Syria's ambassador to Iraq became first Syrian envoy to defect on July 11, 2012.
  • Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, highest ranking military officer to abandon Syrian government on July 6, 2012.
  • Colonel Hassan Hammadeh flew his MiG-21 warplane to neighboring Jordan during a June, 2012, training mission and was granted asylum.
  • Imad Ghalioun, member of Syria’s parliament, left country in January, 2012, to join opposition.
  • Adnan Bakkour, former attorney general of Hama, appeared in video in late August 2011 announcing he had defected.
Hijab said the Assad government currently controls only 30 percent of the nation and is collapsing morally, economically and militarily.

The former prime minister is the highest-ranking political figure to defect from the Syrian government. He fled to Jordan with his family.

Hilal Khashan, an analyst at the American University of Beirut, says that Western supporters of the Syrian opposition, including the U.S., are trying to identify ex-members of Assad's regime who are able to form a core leadership for a new Syria.

"The U.S. is trying to identify defectors from Assad's regime as leaders of a post-Assad Syria," Khashan said. "It's clear [from] that, based on comments by Hijab today, when he said that there are good decent people in Assad's administration and that they should join the uprising."

US Considers Multiple Options

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says he is confident the United States could enforce a no-fly zone over Syria, but that a "major policy decision" needed to authorize such a mission has not been made.

Panetta told the Associated Press the United States is considering multiple options for Syria and indicated a no-fly zone is not a top priority.

"We have planned for a number of contingencies that could take place and one of those possible contingencies is developing a no-fly zone. But we've also pointed out difficulties in being able to implement that," he said. "It's not on the front burner as far as I know."

Last year, the U.S. and its NATO allies implemented a no-fly zone over Libya as rebels fought against and eventually ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi.

But the circumstances are different in Syria, which has much more sophisticated air defenses than Libya.

President Assad's forces have increased air attacks in recent weeks, targeting rebel strongholds in key places such as the nation's largest city of Aleppo.

Syrian rebels have said they need a no-fly zone to protect against the attacks.

Diplomatic Efforts

Foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will be holding a summit in Mecca late Tuesday night, after agreeing to recommend suspending Syria from the group.

The move by the 57-member OIC could lead to a diplomatic dispute during the summit between Syrian ally Iran and pro-opposition Saudi Arabia.  

Also Tuesday, United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos begins a three-day visit to Syria and Lebanon to discuss ways to urgently boost relief efforts to civilians caught in the conflict.

A U.N. statement Monday said the visit is aimed at drawing attention to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria, and the impact on people still in the country and those who have fled to other countries, including Lebanon.

"The humanitarian situation in Syria has further worsened in recent weeks as fighting has spread in Damascus and to Aleppo and other cities," the statement said. "Two million people are now estimated to have been affected by the crisis and over one million have been internally displaced."

In China, the foreign minister is scheduled to hold talks with a special envoy to President Assad.  China says it is also considering inviting opposition members to visit.

China has joined Russia in vetoing three United Nations Security Council resolutions threatening Syria with sanctions for using heavy weapons against civilians.

Violence Continues

Fighting continued in northern Syria Tuesday after rebels circulated a video Monday of what they claim is the downing of a Syrian plane and the captured pilot. The rebel video cannot be independently verified.

Opposition activists posted amateur video on YouTube Monday showing a fighter jet flying through the sound of heavy fire, erupting in a ball of flames and trailing a line of smoke.  Someone off-camera celebrates, saying the plane had been hit in the town of Mohassen in Deir Ezzor province. Later, video was released of a man, identified as the pilot, surrounded by armed men.

State media say a pilot ejected Monday after suffering technical problems during a "routine training mission" in eastern Syria, and that authorities are searching for him.

According to eyewitness reports, the Syrian government has been using fighter jets as part of its most recent assaults on rebel-held areas across the country.

On Tuesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported government shelling in Idlib province that it said killed four people. The Observatory said clashes between government forces and rebels were taking place in other areas of the province following rebel attacks on military targets.

The group says more than 20,000 people have been killed since the nation's uprising began in March of last year.

A Syrian refugee woman carries her baby as they walk amidst dust at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, August 13, 2012.A Syrian refugee woman carries her baby as they walk amidst dust at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, August 13, 2012.
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A Syrian refugee woman carries her baby as they walk amidst dust at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, August 13, 2012.
A Syrian refugee woman carries her baby as they walk amidst dust at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, August 13, 2012.
Refugees Increasing

The United Nations refugee agency says the numbers of those fleeing fighting in Syria continue to escalate. The agency has registered 157,577 Syrian refugees who have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey and expects those figures to rise sharply.

Agency spokesman Adrian Edwards says the number of registered refugees does not reflect the actual number of Syrians who have fled into neighboring countries because many are reluctant to be counted.

"These are fairly general impressions that our team is receiving that people have been reluctant to register because they fear that this information might get back to Syria and have negative implications for them," Edwards said.

The UNHCR reports 283 Syrians crossed the border into Jordan on Saturday night compared to what had been a steady average of about 400 people arriving each night since July. It says the decline may be because of dangers refugees encounter while fleeing.

On another front, the agency has opened a new registration facility in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.  Agency spokesman Edwards says there is an increasingly perilous situation along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

"The security situation for refugees in the northern border areas of Lebanon has been deteriorating," he said. "Northern parts of the Wali Khalid area, where several hundred refugee families reside, has been targeted by shelling from the Syrian side of the border two to three times a week."

Along the Turkish-Syrian border, the stream of refugees fleeing conflict in Syria's most-populous city, Aleppo, is increasing. In the last four days, the U.N. reports 10,000 Syrians have arrived, bringing the total number of refugees in Turkey to nearly 60,000.  

U.N. emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos arrived in Syria on Tuesday for a three-day regional trip to discuss humanitarian aid for Syrian civilians trapped in battle zones.

The U.N. estimates some 1.5 million Syrians are internally displaced and in need of emergency help.

VOA's Lisa Schlein contributed to this report from Geneva and Edward Yeranian contributed from Cairo. Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Comments page of 3
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by: Peter from: USA
August 14, 2012 1:22 PM
He just showed his Islamic fundamentalist colors.

In Response

by: Eb from: USA
August 14, 2012 3:21 PM
I'm surprised Trudeau hasn't put out a disclaimer that Hijab's resemblance to Trff is just an unfortunate coincidence ;-)


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 14, 2012 1:21 PM
So all the foot dragging is a sign of fear of Syrian air force? The US should have explained all the while why it has failed to stand by Israel against Iran's nuclear ambition. Let me ask, was USA disgraced in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? What has put this jitters into it that the mention of Iran and Israeli air strike makes Obama sneeze? Not thinking of No Fly Zone because Syria has better air defense system than Libya! By the way which god is the eloped minister referring to? If he means God, then even himself is an enemy of God by virtue of his hate religion. But it is disappointing that Turkey and the rest of the Arab League do not see the death of thousands of civilians in Syria as crime against humanity, and no flotilla has been raised to protest against Russia, Iran and China who are midwifing the massacre in the cities of Syria. By the hypocrisy thus far shown by the raisers of aid flotillas, the UN should hence forth ban every other pretenses of flotilla in the future as it can now be seen to be fraught with antisemitism.

In Response

by: Larry from: England
August 14, 2012 3:18 PM
Or how about not siding with Israel because it is a warmongering, apartheid, racist state. Godwin you wouldn't know hateful religion if it knocked you upside your head. Keep spreading your zionazi propaganda, no one is listening.


by: ZygnomicTerrorism from: Young Uhmericuh
August 14, 2012 12:54 PM
What they mean is that they are the enemy of the Gerent Occult's of Demonocracy acronym GOD that the George bush republican Illuminati uses to drive their war commerce war machine while depleting the global populate through their L.I.E.S acronym to.....Linguistic's Iniquity of Eigenvalue-vector-function's of Sadomasochism.


by: Anonymous
August 14, 2012 12:51 PM
The ONLY reason Assad wants to TRY and keep a grip on power is because without the power of Syria, he is a nobody in the world. It is all about greed, he figures if he can't have Syria nobody can. Instead he doesn't realise that Syria would be a better place for the people without him. He feels that Syria is nothing without him. Well he is thinking wrong, and what is going to happen is one of these scenarios:

1) Assad will likely be killed (and maybe even abused) by his very own people during this war, and a new leader will become elected in a while.

2) Assad will be captured and stand trial in his own country. He will realise that the world spins without him, and Syria is better without him, from a jail cell and will likely end up with a death sentence.

3) Assad will commit suicide, because he has never experienced failure before and won't know how to cope with it or face the world. This is why he has commited horrendous war crimes against humanity, he isn't used to losing, in his mind he can't lose. He's had everything handed to him since birth, by his cold blooded killer father.

In Response

by: Anonymous 2
August 14, 2012 5:15 PM
4) He and his family abandon Syria, move to Russia and live off of their stolen money.

5) He and his Alawite bretheren retreat to Latakia with as many arms (including chemical weapons) equipment and money, set up an Alawite republic, and attempt to to fight a long protracted war with the rest of Syria. As long as he gets support from Russia and China it could be a prtracted fight.

In Response

by: ike from: usa
August 14, 2012 4:07 PM
Hey lets also help and fund the Bahraini opposition to topple their dictatorship and ruthless monarch.... oh wait, thats right he is our guy so he can stay. Sorry I forgot


by: laugh from: USA
August 14, 2012 12:51 PM
Remember kids...every time a bell rings, a traitor changes to a puppet and gets its string.

In Response

by: ZygnomicTerrorism from: Young Uhmericuh
August 14, 2012 9:57 PM
Are you stereotyping the murderous leprechaun.


by: ATL
August 14, 2012 12:45 PM
If there is any room in your hearts for anything other than hate, please encourage those who can to send rice, peanut butter, and cane syrup for the children. Please, whether you believe in a god or not, whether you think the conflict is wrong or not.

In Response

by: James from: USA
August 14, 2012 2:23 PM
Where do you send the food? Is there a website?


by: jway from: local
August 14, 2012 12:34 PM
Assad might be an enemy of the Syrian people but how can he be an enemy of an imaginary creature? If we really want to live on this planet in a peaceful and sustainable fashion then it's probably best to look for real-world solutions to real-world problems rather than pin our hopes on ancient fairy tales.


by: Ir Travis from: Texas
August 14, 2012 12:33 PM
This man saying this is no surpise. This man is a Sunni. Sunni's believe all non-Sunni's are enemies of God.

Just as the 20/20 Sunni Hijackers on 9/11 thought they were attacking enemies of God when they flew those planes into New York City.

Just like when Sunni's chopped the head off Daniel Pearl. Just like when Sunni's attacked the US naval ship in Yemen.


by: Anonymous
August 14, 2012 12:18 PM
does this mean with his statement that Assad is the enemy of God that he is God's friend ?
I think he is catering to the Saudis/Qataris who are supporting the Islamists faction of the anti-Assad movement


by: Robert from: California
August 14, 2012 12:11 PM
It is the the west and the CIA that are creating this conflict. My views are conservative; but our government is not telling the truth.We should not be involved in this . Libya with Qaddafi wanted an African gold Dinar..for oil transactions.We killed em'. Vietnam ...incident of the Gulf of Tonkin..a lye.World War two...So many ambassadors told the US ambassador to Japan that an attack on Pearl Harbor was coming. Lusitania a set up. 9/11...controlled demolition..no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq...Iraq and Afghanistan had nothing to do with it. Cuba is blockaded; but we do business with China?....Opium production is up in Afghanistan since we invaded. We align with Monarchy's in the middle east? ...and on top of all it is taxpayers money. And we don't have it!

In Response

by: ZygnomicTerrorism from: Young Uhmericuh
August 14, 2012 1:11 PM
Enemy of G.O.D acronym Gerent Occult's of Demonocracy in other words he don't like our CIA RMS psychic visual neuropathogenic MkUltra peoject echelon and mockingbird operations of Mutually Assured Distruction via Artificial Intelligence. and that is a good thing to be the enemy of. good going Assad Please Get Busy. How do we get rid of something that done exist?. surely it's not by use of the N.S.A. acronym to...... no such agency.

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