Elite Syrian General defects as “Friends of Syria” meet in Paris

Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlas, a senior commander in the Republican Guard and close friend of President Bashar al-Assad, was confirmed to have defected. Brig. Gen. Tlas has fled to Turkey, and is headed to Paris, according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Brig. Gen. Tlas attended military training with Assad, and his father, Mustafa Tlas, ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlas, a senior commander in the Republican Guard and close friend of President Bashar al-Assad, was confirmed to have defected. Brig. Gen. Tlas has fled to Turkey, and is headed to Paris, according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Brig. Gen. Tlas attended military training with Assad, and his father, Mustafa Tlas, was the former defense minister. Defections have been increasing in recent weeks, but this is the highest-level defection since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011, and could signify a crack in Assad's inner circle. Meanwhile, the Friends of Syria have gathered in Paris to discuss greater measures to pressure the Assad regime, focusing on more extensive sanctions and closing loopholes. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for increased pressure on Russia and China, who were not in attendance, saying they aren't paying any price for "standing up on behalf of the Assad regime." The main Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Council, has called for military support and a no-fly zone. The United States is focused on economic sanctions and Russia and China have insisted they would block any military intervention.

Headlines  

Election materials were destroyed by a fire in the eastern city of Ajdabiya days ahead of Libya's first national elections since the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi. The UAE has granted bail for U.S. businessman Zack Shahin held for over four years without trial on fraud charges. Kuwait's emir has reappointed former Prime Minister Sheik Jaber al-Hamad al-Sabah just days after his resignation, suggesting efforts to break a political stalemate. A Bahraini court has ruled that an 11-year-old boy, the youngest to be detained for involvement in anti-government protests, may remain at home but must be monitored.

Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlas, a senior commander in the Republican Guard and close friend of President Bashar al-Assad, was confirmed to have defected. Brig. Gen. Tlas has fled to Turkey, and is headed to Paris, according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Brig. Gen. Tlas attended military training with Assad, and his father, Mustafa Tlas, was the former defense minister. Defections have been increasing in recent weeks, but this is the highest-level defection since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011, and could signify a crack in Assad’s inner circle. Meanwhile, the Friends of Syria have gathered in Paris to discuss greater measures to pressure the Assad regime, focusing on more extensive sanctions and closing loopholes. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for increased pressure on Russia and China, who were not in attendance, saying they aren’t paying any price for "standing up on behalf of the Assad regime." The main Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Council, has called for military support and a no-fly zone. The United States is focused on economic sanctions and Russia and China have insisted they would block any military intervention.

Headlines  

  • Election materials were destroyed by a fire in the eastern city of Ajdabiya days ahead of Libya’s first national elections since the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi.
  • The UAE has granted bail for U.S. businessman Zack Shahin held for over four years without trial on fraud charges.
  • Kuwait’s emir has reappointed former Prime Minister Sheik Jaber al-Hamad al-Sabah just days after his resignation, suggesting efforts to break a political stalemate.
  • A Bahraini court has ruled that an 11-year-old boy, the youngest to be detained for involvement in anti-government protests, may remain at home but must be monitored.

Arguments & Analysis 

‘The jihadists’ frightening new front‘ (The Economist)

"Legend held that the main gate of Timbuktu’s Sidi Yahya mosque, a wood-panelled affair with metalwork cast in the shape of crescent moons, would open only at the end of time. In a metaphorical sense that is what Islamist militants apparently linked to al-Qaeda who now control the ancient trading-post in northern Mali have now unleashed on the city. Since July 2nd they have been battering down the ancient entrance with picks and shovels to "destroy its mystery" as part of a city-wide programme of cultural vandalism inspired by religious zeal that has left inhabitants aghast with horror. Destroyed, too, are eight mausoleums and a number of saints’ tombs. More wreckage is feared."

How Morocco Dodged the Arab Spring‘ (Nicolas Pelham, New York Review of Books)

"But whereas Ben Ali, Tunisia’s policeman, pigheadedly sought to keep power when the streets erupted in late 2010, Morocco’s po-faced but retiring King has kept one step ahead by offering to share it. On March 9, 2011-just weeks after Ben Ali’s exile-King Mohammed unveiled a new constitution that gave up his claim to divine rights as sovereign, but left him as Commander of the Faithful, much-said palace advisers-as Britain’s Queen remains head of the Anglican Church. And while other Arab monarchs, like Jordan’s, dithered about whether to risk parliamentary elections, Mohammed held them quickly and fairly last November; when an Islamist party won the most seats, the King declared its leader, Abdelilah Benkirane, the prime minister."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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