Manaf Tlas: Syrian regime ‘taking country to Hell’

BBC News reports: Sources close to Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, who met him days before he deserted, told the BBC he was very angry about what was happening in Syria and accused the regime of “taking the country to Hell”.

“If I were him, I would have done an [former Turkish leader and political reformer Kamal] Ataturk or resigned the second month the uprising began,” the sources quoted him saying of Bashar al-Assad, before he left for Turkey.

A commander in the elite Republican Guard, Gen Tlas is the highest ranking official – and the first from President Assad’s inner circle – to desert since the uprising began in March 2011.

Gen Tlas had been under partial house arrest since May 2011 because he opposed the regime’s response to the uprising.

He was the first government official to meet the opposition, back in March 2011, seeking to open a dialogue and find a political solution to the crisis.

He was also involved in reconciliation efforts in rural Damascus – mainly in Douma and Daraya and Tal – as well as in Homs and his home town Rastan.

Brig Gen Tlas met residents of several towns and helped obtain the release of many of their prisoners, even taking families from Douma to meet President Assad, who promised them a peaceful solution.

But Rastan was the turning-point for Manaf Tlas.

In May 2011, power and mobile networks were cut off in Rastan in preparation for an attack on the city by the official forces. Manaf Tlas ordered the services to be restored and promised the protesters they had the right to demonstrate peacefully.

Celebrating this, protesters chanted his name, which was enough to anger Maher al-Assad, Bashar’s brother and head of the Republican Guard, who ordered Manaf Tlas to stay at home.

Gen Tlas continued going to his base but no longer with any power to issue orders.

Hours after his desertion was announced, his house was ransacked by a mob, under the watch of the army, eyewitnesses said.

The BBC has spoken to members of Gen Tlas’ family, but they refused to comment.

His wife, Thala Khair, and other family members, are in Paris.

Many people within the opposition see Manaf Tlas as someone who has not been involved in bloodshed and believe he could play an important role in a transitional phase in rebuilding the military establishment.

Members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) who defected from the military, are said to hold hopes for Gen Tlas as a reputed army figure.

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11 thoughts on “Manaf Tlas: Syrian regime ‘taking country to Hell’

  1. Fillmorehagan

    Why is your web site buying into US propaganda about events in Syria?

    The Assad regime is indeed brutal but has a lot of support among Christians, Alawites, and Shiites. The so called “freedom fighters include many Al Qaeda types who are burning Christian churches and massacring any Assad supporters they manage to catch.

    If the so called rebels should prevail look for a genocidal massacre of Assad supporters. But with Russia, China and Iran strongly supporting Assad the regime has a good chance of surviving.

    BTW terrorist Al Qaeda bombs are killing hundreds of people in Iraq every month, but the west seems strangely unconcerned about these atrocities — similar to what is going on in Syria.

    To paraphrase Clint Eastwood in the movie DIRTY HARRY, the US and Nato have no problem with terrorism as long as the “right ” people are being terrorized.

  2. Paul Woodward

    Unlike quite a number of people in the anti-war movement and what I must reluctantly label the brain-dead left, I think that the people of Syria have just as much right as anyone else does to political freedom. In pursuit of that freedom they initially followed the lead of other populations in the region and staged non-violent protests. The government responded by shooting protesters in the hope that they would back down. Instead, in increasing numbers they took up arms.

    What alternatives did they have? Keep on protesting and getting shot? Start online petitions? Form prayer circles? Tell me what kind of non-violent resistance is actually effective in responding to violent oppression?

    It’s unbelievably ironic that many of those who have long condemned American interference in the Middle East now hold out hope that the Assad regime will survive — as though dictatorships offer stability. We’ve heard that argument before, haven’t we?

    Don’t overestimate the amount of support Assad has from Russia, China or Iran — they will each act strictly in their own interests. Come the day he and his family seek asylum I doubt that they will find it with any of their current “friends.”

    If you judge who is worthy of support and who isn’t on the basis of who incurs the hostility of the U.S. government, then you end being just as capricious and amoral as the U.S. government itself.

  3. Lysander

    No one here is denying the right of the Syrian people to rise up against their government if they want to. What we are challenging is the “right” of western countries and former colonial powers to interfere and take up the cause of rebels against their government…whenever it suits them to do so.

    Whether you like Assad or not, what the western powers along with their Gulf Arab lackeys are seeking to do is destroy Syria as a state. Just as they have Libya. They will happily do this to hurt Iran and benefit Israel and they don’t care how many Syrians die. They can cloth their aggression and neo colonialism with talk of freedom and “right to protect” all they want but we see through it clearly.

    Our choice at this point is supporting those who would destroy Syria as a state (and they will if given the chance) or the Assad government which, for all its faults, will preserve Syria as an independent country if they can.

    As a factual note, while there were peaceful protests, there was an armed element from the very beginning as the Syrian government claimed and proved with numerous dead soldiers and police. It was denied by the opposition until it became too obvious to hide late last summer. At that point they fell back to the “well what do you expect” position which you espouse. No government in the world will tolerate an armed uprising, including the US. If you doubt that, check out what happened in Waco, Newark, Watts, LA after Rodney king…etc.

  4. Paul Woodward

    Of course no government will tolerate an armed uprising. The question is: what provokes the uprising? You can either be a conspiracy theorist and attribute what’s been happening in Syria to the meddling of Western powers — something a lot of people seem willing to believe merely on the basis of comments Hillary Clinton makes — or, you can see this as the result of decades of oppression.

    I keep on hearing these defenses of Assad that begin with the caveat that we know it’s a brutal regime… but.

    A few years ago, Hassan Nasrallah, one of Assad’s most loyal allies said this: “What can really protect a regime are its own people and its own citizens, if they are well treated by it; if it oppresses them, none of its rallying speeches will do it any good.”

    Either one accepts that a brutal regime has sowed the seeds of its own destruction, or in this case, you need to show how the Assad regime is really not so bad after all — that it’s the victim of Western propaganda and Syria would be a land of peace and harmony were it not for a few local miscreants and the evil scheming of the West.

  5. Lysander

    Paul, I recognize running a blog in addition to your own life is time consuming and you don’t have time to debate every commenter. So thanks for taking the time to answer. This will be my last comment on this post.

    The Syrian PEOPLE have every right to overthrow their government or to SUPPORT it if they choose. Pointing to a foreign conspiracy is hardly paranoid. It is pointing out the obvious when such conspiracy is being conducted in the open. KSA and Qatar are OPENLY financing and arming rebels. Turkey is CLEARLY hosting them. The President of the US has REPEATEDLY said “Assad must go.” The US is constantly going to the UNSC demanding extreme sanctions on its way to another no fly zone. It is constantly attacking Russia and China for blocking it. Is it then paranoid to assume that the SNC, meeting in western capitals with western diplomats, is filled to the brim with western intelligence assets? Is that hard to imagine?

    I do not have to argue that the Syrian government is all peaches and cream to say that it is none of the US’s business who governs Syria, even if it is an oppressive regime. One does not have to be paranoid to realize the welfare of Syrians is the last thing on Obama’s mind. One only has to be awake.

    Now ask yourself, if all that help disappeared. If Turkey closed its borders, if there was zero prospect of a no fly zone, if Obama said Syria’s affairs are its own business, if KSA stopped throwing cash around and facilitating the travel of jihadists to Syria, how long would this rebellion last?

    Lastly, Hassan Nasrallah is correct. Without the support of the people, a government would collapse in the face of a crisis of this magnitude. Having lasted this long (even if it were to now collapse) it is daft to argue that the Syrian government does not have the support of a very substantial proportion of the population.

  6. Paul Woodward

    I don’t think there has ever been a revolutionary movement that didn’t welcome some kind of external support. The idea that accepting any outside support invalidates a revolution, in practice invalidates the very idea of revolution. By their very nature, authoritarian states centralize power and those who would challenge that power can’t rigidly stick to high principles when it comes to choosing from whom they will accept support.

    Ask any of the rebels in Syria, how much do you value the support you are getting from the United States and I guarantee they would answer: what support? The numerous gatherings of Western leaders have been a massive exercise in political posturing, mostly designed to protect their own domestic right flank. They want to appear to be supporting the aspirations of Syrian people even when the reality is that the Syrians are very much on their own.

    When rebels retreat from a city because they run out of ammunition, what do you think this says about the “massive” amount of support they are receiving from outside powers?

  7. eddy mason

    “Now ask yourself, if all that help disappeared. If Turkey closed its borders, if there was zero prospect of a no fly zone, if Obama said Syria’s affairs are its own business, if KSA stopped throwing cash around and facilitating the travel of jihadists to Syria, how long would this rebellion last?”

    About as long as it takes Assad regime to round up and execute or imprison all of the population who have expressed support for a democratic government in Syria!

  8. dickerson3870

    RE: “You can either be a conspiracy theorist and attribute what’s been happening in Syria to the meddling of Western powers — something a lot of people seem willing to believe merely on the basis of comments Hillary Clinton makes…” ~ Woodward

    QUESTION: Do you consider Sy Hersh to be a “conspiracy theorist”?

    SEE: “The Redirection”, by Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, March 5, 2007
    Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?

    [EXCERPTS] In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. . .
    . . . To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda. . .
    The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”
    Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said. . .


  9. Paul Woodward

    No, I don’t consider Hersh a conspiracy theorist — though he knowingly provides fodder for them.

    This 2007 report perfectly illustrates the disconnect between Washington’s Middle East objectives and what actually happens there. The Arab Spring shattered the myth that the Western-aligned Sunni states were havens of moderation and stability. The image of Washington as master engineer, conspiring in the background, supporting dissident groups here and there, vastly overestimates the reach and competence of those who supposedly wield the most powerful tools of imperial power. The truth is that the US government mostly operates like all others, through the bumbling efforts of people who don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and are struggling to deal with what happened yesterday.

    Great power, poorly informed decision-makers and pervasive incompetence — this is the toxic combination that creates so much chaos in the world.

  10. dickerson3870

    RE: “Unlike quite a number of people in the anti-war movement and what I must reluctantly label the brain-dead left, I think that the people of Syria have just as much right as anyone else does to political freedom.” ~ Paul Woodward

    MY REPLY: I have to live with the fact that I initially supported intervention in Libya to prevent the possibility of a massacre only to see the U.S. and its allies flagrantly, grotesquely, and shamelessly abuse the UN Security Council resolution (authorizing member states to establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya) in order to instead pursue their own regime change agenda.
    Frankly, it was disturbingly reminiscent (perhaps not entirely coincidentally**) of Israel’s “intervention” in Lebanon in the summer of 1982.*
    Consequently, as I see it, the U.S. and its NATO allies absolutely cannot be trusted to intervene in Syria in a responsible manner. It has absolutely nothing to do with how much right the Syrian people have to “political freedom”.
    Because the U.S and its NATO allies so badly abused R2P in regards to Libya (much like they abused the right to defend themselves by invading Iraq), I simply cannot support any intervention under any circumstances on their part no matter how seemingly deserving the purported beneficiaries of such intervention might be.
    For me, it is somewhat akin to the exclusionary rule in U.S. criminal law in that it is the only way I know to prevent rampant abuse of R2P.

    * FROM WIKIPEDIA [Lebanese Civil War]:

    (excerpt) . . . Israel launched Operation Peace for Galilee on 6 June 1982, attacking PLO bases in Lebanon. Israeli forces quickly drove 25 miles (40 km) into Lebanon, moving into East Beirut with the tacit support of Maronite leaders and militia. When the Israeli cabinet convened to authorize the invasion, Sharon described it as a plan to advance 40 kilometers into Lebanon, demolish PLO strongholds, and establish an expanded security zone that would put northern Israel out of range of PLO rockets. In fact, Israeli chief of staff Rafael Eitan and Sharon had already ordered the invading forces to head straight for Beirut, in accord with Sharon’s blueprint dating to September 1981. . .
    . . . By 15 June 1982, Israeli units were entrenched outside Beirut. The United States called for PLO withdrawal from Lebanon, and Sharon began to order bombing raids of West Beirut, targeting some 16,000 PLO fedayeen who had retreated into fortified positions. . .
    . . . The fighting in Beirut killed more than 6,700 people of whom the vast majority were civilians. . .

    ** P.S. ALSO SEE: “America Adopts the Israel Paradigm”, by Philip Ghiraldi,, 7/05/12
    LINK –

  11. Paul Woodward

    To the extent that there is talk about military intervention in Syria, that’s all it is: talk. NATO officials and Western leaders haven’t even raised the threat of military intervention and it’s not because R2P has fallen into disfavor or because of questions about the wisdom of having intervened in Libya. It’s because the geography (and geopolitics) of the conflict is radically different from Libya and there really aren’t any plausible options for intervention.

    Keep in mind that if the US or anyone else wanted a pretext to intervene in Syria, Assad offers them on about a weekly basis. It almost seems like his way of thumbing his nose at the world.

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