Two high-profile defections from the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad have reignited US calls for Assad to step down, as Russia continues to block international efforts that leave open the possibility of military intervention.
Nawaf Fares, Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, has followed Syrian general Manaf Tlass and defected from the regime. Fares has given lip service to the opposition and urged Syrians still in the military to turn their weapons ” towards the criminals in the regime.”
But members of the opposition are skeptical. “I know this man is a criminal,” said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition outlet which has tried to tally the death toll throughout the conflict.
“It’s quite similar to the Manaf Tlass story. If the ambassador defects, he does it because he is greedy for power because Western intelligence agencies are looking for figures who can fit into a transitional phase,” Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Another opposition activist based in Hama, who identified himself as Abu Ghazi, told AFP that, “People are very wary of the reasons he has defected.”
“This defection could be part of a scenario at a time when Russia is starting to slightly shift in its position, and while the international community and the regime are searching for ways to establish a transitional government,” Abu Ghazi added.
Meanwhile, UN envoy Kofi Annan continues to try to move a process forward for a political transition in Syria by pressuring foreign powers like the US and Russia to give up trying to exploit the crisis for their own interests and pressure either side in Syria to cooperate with the ceasefire and political transition.
But Russia said on Thursday it would veto a Western-backed UN Security Council draft resolution threatening sanctions on Syria and leaving room for military action if the regime does not comply with Annan’s plan in within 10 days.
“As a whole, their resolution is unbalanced and foresees that obligations should only be fulfilled by the Syrian government. Practically nothing is said about the obligations of the opposition,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said.