Thursday, March 08, 2012

Cracks Appear In Syrian Government as Deputy Oil Minister Defects Over Ongoing Brutality

Overnight, the deputy oil minister produced a YouTube clip announcing his intentions to defect in protest over Bashar al-Assad's ongoing brutalization of the Syrian people in his attempt to crush the rebellion against his regime.
The man, Abdo Husameddine, cited the government’s “brutal” crackdown against protesters in explaining his decision to defect, and he urged other officials to follow suit.

“I join the revolution of this dignified people,” he declared in the video, which was filmed in an unidentified location.

“I have been in government for 33 years. I did not want to end my career serving the crimes of this regime. I have preferred to do what is right although I know that this regime will burn my house and persecute my family,” he said.

The man described himself in the video as “an assistant to the minister of oil and mineral resources.” The Web site of the Syrian Oil Ministry identifies a man called Abdo Husameddine as an assistant oil minister.
The regime has yet to confirm the actions.

He would be the highest ranking official to defect to date, and could signal others to defect as well. Defecting officials helped strengthen international resolve in dealing with Mumar Khadafi - showing that the opposition was coalescing into an internationally recognizable group worthy of support. If sufficient numbers of high ranking officials defect, that could potentially happen for Syria as well.

However, I think it would take more than just a deputy oil minister or other mid-ranking officials to sway international opinion. It would take the defection of high ranking military officials - and I just don't see that happening. The Syrian military and security apparatus is dominated by loyalists and their self-interest lies in supporting the regime.

All the while, Assad's security forces continue their murderous attacks against the Syrian people. Another eight were killed in fighting, while reports of torture at Syrian military hospitals continue to increase. Those reports include accounts of the torture of children among those detained by the regime in the ongoing crackdown.

Well, it looks like I've got to eat my words above. Four generals have apparently defected from Assad's military forces and joined with the opposition, joining with three others who defected previously.
The men fled over the past three days to a camp for Syrian army deserters in southern Turkey, according to Lieutenant Khaled al-Hamoud, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army (FSA). He told Reuters by telephone from Turkey the desertions bring to seven the number of brigadier generals who have defected.

The seven are the highest-ranking officers to abandon Assad, and the rank is the fifth highest in the Syrian armed forces. Mustafa Sheikh was the first brigadier general to announce his defection.
The tide seems to be turning against Assad if his previously loyal military leaders are bailing on him.

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