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

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora