A senior official in Syria’s Oil Ministry announced in a video message on Thursday that he was abandoning the regime of Bashar al-Assad, in what appeared to be the highest-level defection of a government official since the start of the violence in Syria.
Abdu Hussameldin, the deputy oil minister, condemned the Assad regime for violence against the Syrian people. “I declare I am joining the people’s revolution which will not and will never accept oppression and the brutality practiced by the regime,” he said. “I don’t want to end my career in the service of this regime’s crimes,” he added.
The video did not specify where or when it had been made, and Hussameldin has not be reached to verify its authenticity. British and American officials who now officially support the overthrow of the Assad regime played up the defection, arguing it was the start of the regime’s downfall. But many in Syria’s opposition claimed it was relatively unimportant.
“I don’t consider such a defection a strike for the regime,” Samir Nachar, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council, told the New York Times. Haytham Manna, a Syrian dissident based in Paris, said the defections of bureaucrats will not be what topples the regime. “The most important thing is the army,” he said.
Publicly, the Obama administration has retreated from its initial refusal to stay out of the conflict in Syria by agreeing this week to provide direct humanitarian and communications assistance to the Syrian opposition. While the official line remains to keep military options off the table for now, the change in policy could open the flood gates for expanded military intervention. Many in Congress have openly pushed for bombing Syria to collapse the Assad regime.
According to confidential emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor that were released by WikiLeaks, Western forces have been inside Syria for months performing covert reconnaissance work. No U.S. official has commented on these revelations, but they coincide with information revealed by Antiwar.com columnist and former CIA officer Philip Giraldi as far back as December 2011.
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