News / Middle East

Pentagon Welcomes Syrian General’s Defection

Luis Ramirez
PENTAGON — U.S. military officials are welcoming the defection of Syrian Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, a commander of Syria’s elite Republican Guard.

Violence has been escalating in Syria in recent days and so has the number of high-level officers who are leaving the Syrian army.  On hearing that Brigadier General Manaf Tlass - a senior official in the Syrian army and a former friend of the Assad family - had defected, U.S. defense officials said the news is not something to be taken lightly.  

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain John Kirby told reporters the defection appears to be a crack in President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle because the general was so close to the ruling family.

“It’s just another example of a senior member of the Syrian army who’s decided to turn against the regime to stop committing violent acts against the Syrian people. So we welcome this defection and believe it’s significant,” Kirby said.

Manaf Tlass is the son of former Defense Minister, Mustafa Tlass, who helped Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, set up the country’s internal security apparatus four decades ago.

Kirby indicated U.S. officials are watching for signs of more high-level defections from the Syrian army.  

“We certainly hope that that’s the case. This is just another defection here that we’ve seen.  We hope that others will follow his example.  Absolutely,” Kirby said.

Pentagon officials are not speculating on whether General Tlass’ departure indicates that the Assad government is about to crack under the weight of defections.  They note that Assad is still surrounded by loyalists who are following his orders.

“Bashar al-Assad has basically had a very tightly knit group of people controlling the mechanisms of government and I think breaking that up through diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions is a very difficult thing to do but this defection I think demonstrates that Assad’s position has weakened over time,” said Brian Katulis,  a security analyst at the Center for American Progress, a research organization in Washington.

The U.S. administration is providing non-lethal aid to the rebels through the Department of State and Pentagon officials on Friday said there are no plans to begin supplying weapons.

Defense and intelligence officials believe that sending weapons into Syria could lead to an escalation of the conflict and chaos because - among other things -  the Syrian opposition and rebels have not developed a command and control structure.  

For now, the U.S. is focusing on diplomatic efforts and assisting allies in the region who are more directly involved with intelligence on the situation in Syria.  

U.S. defense officials say  General Tlass was in Turkey Friday and had not had any contact with him.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
July 08, 2012 1:13 PM
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin says her comments are "totally unacceptable" and China's stance on Syria has wide support among members of the international community....
Sorry to put you on the SPOTLIGHT Mr Liu Weimin, but would you care to list these members of the international community? Maybe 3-4 Arms providers to Syria? Is that all you can list if that many??? Nobody is bashing China Liu Weimin , you guys are making a bad name for yourselves to the world. Sit back and sip your tea with Russia while thousands of innocent people are being slaughtered.

by: Stephen Teal from: Columbia uSA
July 07, 2012 2:31 AM
I got admit London and Paris have a knack for flipping these people. I wish I could say it was our guys who flipped this general but historically speaking it's always been the Brits, and friends, who have the mental talent of inciting mass defections. Come on fellas! We really need to step up our game and hang with the big dogs.

by: stillcrazy from: northern california
July 06, 2012 8:57 PM
putin and the chinese are about to wind up on the wrong side of history.
In Response

by: m.crawford from: north florida
July 07, 2012 3:09 AM
you are exactly correct,but i would add the iranians to that list

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs