Syrian Observers doubt motives behind General Tlass’ defection
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Sixteen months after the start of the Syrian revolution, one of the pillars of the regime, General Manaf Tlass, has defected. According to certain leaders of the opposition, the childhood friend of Bashar Al-Assad played an important role leading the crackdown on protesters. Two of our Observers in Homs, the general’s hometown, believe that Manaf Tlass must answer for the blood he has on his hands.
Screenshot of a video filmed by Syrian activists in which General Tlass appears as a puppet controlled by President Assad
Sixteen months after the start of the Syrian revolution, one of the pillars of the regime, General Manaf Tlass, has defected. Two of our Observers in Homs, the general’s hometown, believe that Manaf Tlass must answer for the blood he has on his hands.
According to certain leaders of the opposition, the childhood friend of Bashar Al-Assad played an important role leading the crackdown on protesters. His defection, announced on Thursday, was nevertheless praised by the Syrian opposition, who see him as a key player for a potential transition of power.
Tlass, 50, was one of Al-Assad’s closest collaborators. A member of the central committee of the Baath Party, he was also in charge of Brigade 105, an elite unit of the Republican Guard responsible for defending the capital. He is now the most important figure to have split with the regime, which is facing an armed insurrection.
This video is a parody showing Tlass announcing his defection. He is portrayed as a puppet whose strings are controlled by President Assad.
Quoting a source in Damascus, French news agency AFP said that Al-Assad lost his trust in the general after the latter refused to take command of an offensive into Baba Amr back in February. At the time, Baba Amr had fallen into the hands of the rebels. According to the same source, Tlass decided to defect after Al-Assad refused to promote the Brigadier-General to Major-General.
“If he doesn’t join the Free Syrian Army, he won’t be of any use to us”
Abu Rami is the spokesman of the Revolutionary Council in Homs, General Tlass’ home town.
For us, defections are always welcome. We are constantly encouraging members of the army to desert and join our ranks, whether they are soldiers or senior officers, from the Republican Guard or the Mukhabarat (secret service). They have to do so if they want the Syrian people to one day forgive them.
We have previously applauded senior officers for having defected from the army, just as we applaud the recent defection of Manaf Tlass. We hope that he will now join our ranks.
We learnt from the press that he refused to lead an attack on the Baba Amr district. But that remains to be proved. We do not know if he participated in the repression led by the regime, and whether he has blood on his hands.
In any case, if he does not join the Free Syrian Army and does not publicly denounce the regime, he won’t be of any use to us. And he’ll have a high price to pay. It is also surprising that he waited so long before deserting. Why did he need 16 months [since the start of the revolution] to realise that the regime was immoral?
In this video, insurgents from Homs react to the defection of General Tlass. At 10 minutes: “It’s not a question of defection but of escape. God willing, he will be the first prisoner at the end of the war.”
We are against people who have defected at the last minute coming to lead the revolution, which has already cost us thousands of martyrs. Neither do we want him to be one of our leaders during the transition phase, nor that he take on a position of high responsibility in the future Syria. It’s up to us, those who resisted, to choose who will lead the transition. Then the Syrian people must take charge of their own destiny by choosing those who will lead the country through free and independent elections.
Here in Homs, everyone is talking about his defection. Of course, the population is overjoyed at this news but, at the same time, people know that he has always belonged to the elite [born into a powerful Sunni family, the general is the son of the former Minister of the Defence, Mustapha Tlass].
“He felt the wind changing”
Abu al-Fida is an activist living in Hom’s Khaldiya neighbourhood.
Tlass’ defection is not very significant for us. Among the citizens of Homs, the general is seen, at most, as someone who has now chosen a neutral stance regarding the revolution.
It should not be forgotten that the general has a lot of negative history behind him: he was heavily involved in corruption and participated in all the injustices committed by his family and by Al-Assad. He has not, to this day, voiced his support to the insurgents, nor has he encouraged desertions within the army. At the start of the revolution, he even led several deadly raids on areas of Damascus.
The reason behind his desertion is actually very simple: he felt the winds changing. He knows that the number of deserters continues to increase, that the Free Army is gaining territory and that the end of the regime is close, so he got cold feet and fled so as not to have to account for his acts.