Joshua Landis answers this question: Absolutely important – The Tlass family has been at the heart of the regime from the beginning. They are the keystone of the Sunni-Alawi alliance that has cemented the regime for 4 decades.
Abdul Halim Khaddam and the Tlass family were the two leading Sunni families in the state from the beginning, when Hafiz al-Assad, the architect of the regime, built the structures that have endured since. Bashar preserved the blueprint drawn up by his father.
Vice President Khaddam defected in 2005. His departure sent a shudder through the regime, but this time is different. The Tlas defection sends the sign that the regime is done for. No longer is this uprising merely about angry young men in the countryside. It has reached to the very top. The elite Sunnis are looking for the exit door – but it will be hard to replicate this defection. Manaf got the golden parachute into Paris. His family is all out – his father, brother, wife and children. He planned this carefully. He has the power and the means.
Other generals have no bodyguards, no visas, no money…. It will be a long and painful process for most to defect.
What is more the Alawite officers have their backs to the wall.
The regime will not just collapse. This is not “The Tipping Point” but it is very significant for morale. It sends a message: the game is up.
A statement by General Manaf Tlass: As issued by international press and media, I have just left Syria.
With the will to remain faithful to my military principles and loving feelings towards Syria, I have always tried to fulfill my duty with rightness, in order to preserve unity for Syria and its people.
I did not joined the armed forces to see this army harm its own people, without giving systematically a chance to political solutions.
Thus, because I was in complete opposition with the unjustified violence and crimes committed by Assad’s regime in the past months, I was progressively dismissed from my place of duty in the armed forces.
Today, I call for all my comrades in armed forces, whatever their rank in the hierarchy, who are dragged into this fight against their Syrian fellows and against their own ideals, to end supporting this regime.
I recognize the legitimacy of the fight of the opposition members to the regime, particularly the ones on the ground. In this respect, let me be grateful to those who made it possible for me to leave the Syrian territory where my own person and family were threatened.
In the coming days, I will make a statement on my motives and the possibilities that the future offers me.
Long life to Syria!
General Manaf Tlas