News / Middle East

Syria's Prime Minister Defects, Flees to Jordan

Riyad Hijab (L) is sworn in as new Prime Minister by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) in Damascus in this handout photo distributed by Syrian News Agency, June 26, 2012.
Riyad Hijab (L) is sworn in as new Prime Minister by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) in Damascus in this handout photo distributed by Syrian News Agency, June 26, 2012.
Edward Yeranian
CAIRO — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government suffered a significant blow Monday when Prime Minister Riyad Hijab fled with his family to Jordan, two months after taking the top post.

Hijab said he defected. Syrian state media said he was fired.
 
"I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution," Hijab said in a statement read in his name on Al Jazeera television.

A spokesman, Mohammed Otri, later told journalists that Hijab had been planning his defection for a long time. He said the defection did not occur on the spur of the moment, but that it had been planned for several months in coordination with the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Riad Hijab Profile

  • Defected two months after being appointed prime minister
  • Longtime member of Ba'ath Party
  • Served as Agriculture Minister, has a PhD in agriculture
  • Was governor of Quneitra and Latakia provinces
  • Born in 1966 in Deir Ezzor
Opposition activists say Hijab and his family were smuggled out of Syria by rebel fighters.

Syrian state media said Hijab had been "relieved of his duties" and that his deputy, Omar Ghalawanji, was replacing him in a "caretaker" capacity.

Government struggling

Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, said the high-level defection shows that Assad's regime is crumbling.

"[Hijab] was just appointed by the president," he said. "This means that the president can no longer trust anybody around him, especially Sunnis. This means that he will have difficulty finding somebody to work under his umbrella. The Syrian leadership is disintegrating from within."

As the fighting continued in Syria's largest city of Aleppo for an 18th day, videos posted on the Internet showed people trying to pull victims from the rubble of buildings allegedly bombed by government warplanes.

Witnesses say a number of buildings in Aleppo's Sakhour district were leveled.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the army is shelling several neighborhoods in Aleppo and that nationwide nearly 30 civilians had been killed.

Earlier Monday, an explosion tore through the third floor offices of Syrian state TV in Damascus, causing a number of casualties. The station broadcast video of employees running through smoke-filled corridors as wires and ceiling tiles dangled in the air.

Government and opposition claims in Syria are difficult to verify because journalists do not have a freedom of movement.

Aleppo, the country's biggest city, has become a key battleground in the nearly year and a half uprising against Assad's rule.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that more than 40 Syrians, including 25 civilians, were confirmed as killed Sunday across the country. The British-based group said more than 24 others were killed a day earlier.

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.
Kidnapped Iranians
 
Meanwhile, Iranian media said Sunday that Tehran has asked Turkey and Qatar to help secure the release of 48 Iranian nationals kidnapped Saturday in Damascus.

Iran says the victims were religious pilgrims, but a brigade commander with the Free Syrian Army describes them as elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
 
Iran backs the Syrian government, while Turkey and Qatar support the Syrian opposition.
 
Former Iranian President Abolhasan Bani Sadr told VOA that the captured Iranians were not armed or wearing Revolutionary Guard uniforms. He said Iran is definitely helping Assad and that the stakes are very high for his country.
 
He said the fall of the Assad government not only would be a heavy blow to Iranian prestige and influence in the region, but it also would reinforce U.S. policy of containing Iran. He said Tehran views any toppling of Assad as signifying that Iran's turn could be next.

Call for help

U.S. Senators John McCain, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham say the United States should provide direct assistance to the opposition, including weapons, intelligence and training.

In a joint opinion piece published late Sunday by The Washington Post, they say the U.S. is jeopardizing its national security, as well as its moral standing in the world, by remaining on the sidelines.

The senators said inaction would haunt the nation "for years to come."

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 07, 2012 2:03 PM
Big surprise. Assad himself would have defected by now if not for Russia, China and Iran. I heard they captured another minister who also defected and was running away. Does this create a picture of Syria becoming an infected hurricane? I can see that Assad has disappeared but no one knows if he has defected to Iran, Russia or China, as Saudi Arabia will not accept him. Maybe he is in Nigeria supervising Tehran's testing of new strategy to kill infidels in church.


by: henry mohamed from: yemen
August 06, 2012 6:29 PM

I wonder why the American government supports fighting terrorism in Yemen but at the same time supports spreading it in Syria. is alqaeeda an American invention by Saudi hands. The American-saudi intervention in Yemen increases the deterioration in this poor country. I doubt the claimed American democracy in Yemen and Arab world.


by: Anonymous
August 06, 2012 3:08 PM
Excellent news!!! It's just a matter of time before Assads troops turn on him and point their guns at him. Lots more Syrian officials will soon be defecting, but it is hard to defect there. Assad has forced thousands of innocent people from their homes, killed thousands of people, destroyed many towns/cities, destroyed thousands of lives, enforced torture on his own people, and labels the civillians of Syria as terrorists. Off with Assads Head.
I can't wait to see the youtube video of Assads capture, I will be so happy, it won't be long. You'd think that Russian government would wake up and smell the coffee with all these high level defectors. The defectors are standing up for human rights, something Russia lacks. It's just a matter of time before Russia has the exact same problem, I am more anxious than ever to see the Russian government getting slapped by its own people as well. Putin is just as bad as Assad (Remember Chechnya).

Overall, at the end of the day Assad will lose, and will be lucky to be alive if he isn't killed by his own in the end. If someone does kill Assad, I hope the killer is the father of children killed by Assads military.


by: Robert Michael Cerello from: La Mesa, CA
August 06, 2012 1:16 PM
This is exciting news. The fact that three prominent GOP delusionalists and their abettors want to ramp up military action of the limited sort that Democrats invented and have made work--after they badmouthed it for months--is perhaps fascinating. No one sane cares what such minds think--but the
possibilities for the dictatorship-ridden region dictate to my way of thinking that someone other than such hawish loudmouthed brain-size-less-than-belt-size thinkers also needs to be thinking about crafting a long-term policy for the future in the Near East. And warning our Saudi Arabian so-called allies that the handwriting is on the wall for every pretend-religious dictatorships whose tzars think murdering citizens is an answer to a majority's demand for reformed constitutional government.

This may be a watershed moment for meaningful change in Syria. It means that just as with US corporate welfare, political interference, bribery and election fiascos that the patience of the victims of power seeking regressives may not be infinite at all. Nobody I repeat nobody needs or ever needed and infallibility-spouting Medieval god's-deputy kingship or immoral ayatollah playing god over them; no one ever did and now those who have suffered their misrule becoming sure of that.

In Response

by: Anonymous
August 06, 2012 7:46 PM
I am not surprised by the defection- however- I think that a dog knows to be faithful to his master- defectors never have good result in their life- history evidenced that.


by: Takulia from: New York
August 06, 2012 1:11 PM
OOOh…. Politics!!! What a dirty, sleazy business, if you need a friend, get a dog. All those who have defected are equally accountable.

In Response

by: yaman said from: Syria
August 06, 2012 6:04 PM
There is nobody, who can be equal to the criminal Assad. You just can't imagine, who is Assad. Even Hitler will look as an angel comparing with this killer.


by: Anna from: USA
August 06, 2012 11:51 AM
Hooray!!! another bloated Arab defect... hey, Arabs, you are all defects


by: Michael from: USA
August 06, 2012 8:35 AM
The revolution has become a culture itself. Mr Hijab has expanded this. One logic of military truth is that operations often continue unchanged, even when major changes in attitudes in government and culture occur

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid