News / Middle East

    Another Syrian Official Defects

    FILE - In this July 3, 2008 photo, Nawaf Fares, center, governor of the Quneitra, Syria, briefs a U.N. delegation visiting the city of Quneitra in the Golan Heights to investigate Israeli practices in occupied Arab lands.FILE - In this July 3, 2008 photo, Nawaf Fares, center, governor of the Quneitra, Syria, briefs a U.N. delegation visiting the city of Quneitra in the Golan Heights to investigate Israeli practices in occupied Arab lands.
    x
    FILE - In this July 3, 2008 photo, Nawaf Fares, center, governor of the Quneitra, Syria, briefs a U.N. delegation visiting the city of Quneitra in the Golan Heights to investigate Israeli practices in occupied Arab lands.
    FILE - In this July 3, 2008 photo, Nawaf Fares, center, governor of the Quneitra, Syria, briefs a U.N. delegation visiting the city of Quneitra in the Golan Heights to investigate Israeli practices in occupied Arab lands.
    Edward YeranianScott Stearns
    The United States says military and diplomatic defections in Syria show a continuing "momentum building" against President Bashar al-Assad.

    White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that desperation is growing within Mr. Assad's government.  On a trip to Cambodia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for tougher U.N. action against Damascus.

    The U.S. comments come after Syria's ambassador to Iraq defected this week and joined the opposition.  Nawaf Fares is the highest-ranking Syrian official to switch sides since the uprising against Mr. Assad began 16 months ago.  A general of Syria's Republican Guard defected last week.

    In a lengthy message broadcast on Arab satellite channels, the former ambassador urged Syrian government officials and military personnel to follow his lead and join the opposition.  "Where' he asked, 'is the honor of killing the people?"

    • This image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News shows a Free Syrian Army solider firing his weapon during clashes with Syrian government troops in Aleppo, Syria, July 24, 2012.
    • Free Syrian Army soldiers at the border town of Azaz, 32 kilometers north of Aleppo, Syria, July 24, 2012.
    • This image from amateur video released by the Ugarit News shows a Free Syrian Army solider driving a Syrian military tank in Aleppo, Syria, July 24, 2012.
    • This citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network purports to show a helicopter gunship flying a bombing run in al-Qalmoun, Syria, July 24, 2012.
    • This image provided by Shaam News Network shows smoke rising from Juret al-Shayah in Homs, Syria, July 23, 2012.
    • This citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network purports to show damage from heavy shelling of the al-Qadam district of Damascus, Syria, July 23, 2012.
    • A member of the Free Syrian Army points his weapon through a hole in a wall as he takes up a defense position in a house in Qusseer neighborhood in Homs, Syria, July 16, 2012.
    • A woman holds a child in front of their destroyed home in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers northwest of Hama, July 14, 2012.
    • Free Syrian Army soldiers aim their weapons in Idlib, northern Syria, July 13, 2012.
    • This image made from amateur video from Hama Revolution 2011 purports to show a funeral for victims killed in Tremseh, Syria, July 13, 2012. (AP/ Hama Revolution 2011)
    • This image made from amateur video from Hama Revolution 2011purports to show families gathered around bodies of victims killed in Tremseh, Syria, July 13, 2012.
    • Members of the Free Syrian Army walk through Qusseer neighborhood in Homs, Syria, July 15, 2012.
    The Latest Images From Syria (Click to Expand)
    Fares reportedly left Baghdad for the Kurdish autonomous region before announcing his defection. Iraqi authorities reported that he is on a visit to Qatar.

    Pressure mounting

    Clinton says Syrian defections show pressure is mounting on President Assad to give up power.

    "The economy is in shambles," she said. "The regime is struggling to hold on to large parts of the country. So we do look to the Security Council and all of its members, including Russia, to join us in a serious resolution that gives special envoy Kofi Annan what he needs."

    Diplomats emerged from a private meeting of the U.N. Security Council Wednesday clearly divided on the council's next action to end the fighting between government forces and the opposition.

    Envoy Annan briefed council members via video link on the round of talks on Syria he held earlier in the week in Damascus, Tehran, and Baghdad.  He later told reporters he had advised the council to speak with one voice, rather than divided, because a unified message is more powerful.

    Annan also said he told the Security Council there should be consequences if the Syrian government and the opposition continue to ignore resolutions calling for an end to the fighting.

    Clinton spoke with Annan this week and says she is encouraged that the U.N. and Arab League envoy is asking for a U.N. resolution that both endorses political transition and punishment for those who do not comply.

    "The United States is determined to support him because our experience of the last year makes it absolutely clear that the Assad regime will not do anything without additional further pressure," she said.

    Clinton woos China

    Clinton met in Cambodia with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

    Russia and China have previously vetoed tougher U.N. action against Damascus on the grounds that it could lead to military intervention. Russia vowed on Thursday to continue that stance.

    But Clinton says the United States and China agreed to do everything they can to back a political transition that is endorsed by all five permanent members of the Security Council.

    "And we call on the Syrian military and business community to choose a democratic future rather than to cling to this crumbling regime," she said.

    Defections depend on West

    Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, says stronger action by the West would likely increase defections. Prominent Syrian officials have been slower to defect than their Libyan counterparts during last year's Libyan revolution, he said, in part because the West has been less keen to get involved in the conflict.

    "The fact that an ambassador defected after 16 months means that the uprising is still gathering momentum,"  he said. "I think the main hurdle in Syria that has prevented major defections was the lukewarm reaction of the West. In Libya, the West interfered immediately and that accelerated the pace of defections," Khashan said.

    In Syria on Thursday, witnesses say Syrian government troops fired mortar shells into fields and orchards separating the Damascus district of Kafr Souseh from a neighboring area.  Analysts say it was the first time part of the capital has come under shell fire.

    Syrian government forces also shelled a district in the embattled city of Homs for another day.  Amateur video showed clouds of black smoke rising from burning buildings and badly damaged apartment blocks.

    Stearns reported from Phnom Penh and Yeranian from Cairo.

    You May Like

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
        Next 
    by: Mike
    July 12, 2012 5:09 PM
    Escape from Syria the Syrian senior officials testify about the fall of the Assad regime in the near future. The efforts of Russia and China to save the power of his friend from the club of dictators have failed.

    by: Melisa from: Maine
    July 12, 2012 4:23 PM
    I am with Laura from Ohio... we are very happy for the Arabs but keep them away from US!!! we do not want to see more Muslimes here. so, please, stay in muslimes countries. Thank you

    by: Eric from: USA
    July 12, 2012 3:36 PM
    Laura, im' not sure what you mean by that? "As long as you keep them away from here, we are happy" ?? Who says that? On a human level, any act of oppression, no matter where it occurs, should be viewed with concern. This is a global problem, because whether you like it or not, it does have a long term impact, even to us on this end of the pond....

    by: Steve from: California
    July 12, 2012 3:27 PM
    How did Syria "blast" defection of Ambassador to Iraq? Despite this article's title, the article addresses all but Syria's reaction to the defection. Maybe there should have been a different title?

    by: Randall from: San Francisco
    July 12, 2012 3:10 PM
    there's absolutely nothing in the article that describes or explains it's headline. What kind of journalism is this rag displaying?

    by: Swami from: NYC
    July 12, 2012 3:04 PM
    So why is the article titled "Syria Blasts Defection..." if there is not one single reference to anything said by the government of Syria?

    The only "blasting" being done by Syria here appears to be in the literal sense.

    by: MortimerSnerd from: Canada
    July 12, 2012 2:17 PM
    ... see the rats are beginning to flee a sinking ship. Assad lives in la-la land, and he's kinda like the band that played on while the Titanic was going down. ...the 'establishment' however, is beginning to realize that unless they bail out now they may not be able to later.

    by: John from: Taifa
    July 12, 2012 1:11 PM
    It is a known fact that Fares is a SUNNI, the majority sect of muslims being supported by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to overthrow the secular regime in Syria. The fact that Assad an Alawite kept him and all other religious in his regime shows how power was shared.

    by: Colin Wellstead from: Sydney
    July 12, 2012 12:49 PM
    I wonder how much that cost the US Government

    by: Michael from: USA
    July 12, 2012 10:33 AM
    If Monsieur Fares was really 'in' the establishment, inside, then how did he come to see it objectively as a tool for oppression? By thought? By discussion?
    Comments page of 2
        Next 

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora