Syrian Prime Minister defects, flees to Jordan

posted at 10:01 am on August 6, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Another Arab dictatorship looks ready to collapse, and this one might have the biggest impact of them all.  The embattled Bashar Assad regime in Syria lost its Prime Minister overnight, as Riyad al-Hijab fled to Jordan and announced his defection:

Syria’s prime minister defected to Jordan on Monday, according to news reports, becoming the most senior official yet to quit the embattled government of President Bashar al-Assad.

A statement read on the al-Jazeera Arabic news channel that was described as coming from Prime Minister Riyad al-Hijab said he had resigned to protest his government’s harsh tactics as it escalates its efforts to crush the country’s 16-month-old rebellion.

“I am announcing that I am defecting from this regime, which is a murderous and terrorist regime,” the statement said. “I join the ranks of this dignified revolution.”

State television from Damascus reported that Assad had “fired” his Prime Minister after less than two months on the job.  They didn’t make that claim about General Manaf Tlas, who bailed out of Syria a month ago to the day. Apparently, it’s hard to keep good help when bombing their cities.

The appointment of al-Hijab looks curious in retrospect.  The Post notes that al-Hijab came from a town that has been in open rebellion for more than a year, Deir el-Zour in the east.  Given the strong ties of tribes in Arab culture (a lesson that the US learned the hard way in Iraq), why would Assad have appointed al-Hijab in the first place?  That would have been a huge red flag, unless Assad is so desperate for allies that al-Hijab was his only option, or at least the best of a bunch of high-risk choices.  If that’s the case, then his regime is closer to collapse than many may have thought.

Is that good news, though, or bad news?  Watching Iran’s closest ally and terrorist enabler fall will certainly give us momentary satisfaction, and hopefully might disrupt Hezbollah enough for Lebanon to free itself from their grip.  Assad played a vital role in propping up the terrorist organization, in partnership with Iran.  However, what replaces Assad will almost certainly be worse (via Jen Rubin):

The day Assad falls, there will be an explosion of anger not just against him and his inner circle, but against all Alawites, his minority sect (about 12 percent of the population), and against those Christians who long ago decided that an alliance with Assad was their least-worst option. The jihadis will take the lead in this butchery — and make every effort to remain leaders thereafter. …

Such concerns have policy implications. To stop Assad’s carnage as soon as possible requires providing material support to Syrian rebels — very carefully and probably covertly. We want our Syrian friends — we do have some — in possession of more money and guns. That will not only help them defend themselves against Assad’s troops now, it also will enhance their strength vis-à-vis other factions later. What’s more, Obama has said many times that we are at war with al-Qaeda. Surely that implies we should not permit al-Qaeda to get the upper hand — not in Syria, not in Iraq, not in Africa, not anywhere.

When the fighting is over, the last thing we should want to see is the rise of yet another strongman. A regime dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood would be no victory for freedom either.

Clifford May has more optimism about the endgame than this excerpt suggests, but he urges intervention by the US in the rebellion in order to guarantee a better outcome.  Given what we’ve seen so far from the Arab Spring — the rise of jihadis and the Muslim Brotherhood — we could hardly do worse.  However, given our track record on interventions, I’m not sure we’d end up doing much better , either.  In Iraq we did, but only at a huge cost in resources and time, and even then our gains may well prove temporary.  In the first Afghanistan intervention, we made matters much worse, which is why we’re in Afghanistan now.  Without an overwhelming force in place , I’d say that an Egypt outcome after Assad falls is probably our best-case scenario.


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Please Lord, don’t let us get involved in this mess…

Akzed on August 6, 2012 at 10:03 AM

Israel better prepare for war with it’s many border states.

nobar on August 6, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Assad needs to stick around longer…

I want to see him and AQ weaken each other and divert resources away from other areas.

Kicking Hezbollah out of Lebanon would be a start. Being so busy they can’t send supplies to Egypt or Gaza is another plus.

teke184 on August 6, 2012 at 10:08 AM

Action plan:
1) Sell as much outdated weaponry and ammo to both sides as possible.
2) ????
3) Profit!!

Archivarix on August 6, 2012 at 10:09 AM

Israel better prepare for war with it’s many border states.

nobar on August 6, 2012 at 10:07 AM

The Syrians will be in no shape to invade Israel for years given the destruction and death that has taken place there due to the rebellion. If the Assad regime falls, Hezzbollah is likely to be severely weakened and Israel’s northern border should become fairly secure for at least the next five years.

Doomberg on August 6, 2012 at 10:10 AM

The Post notes that al-Hijab came from a town that has been in open rebellion for more than a year

Assad wanted a cabinet that “looks like Syria”, how’s that working out for him?

NoDonkey on August 6, 2012 at 10:12 AM

Israel better prepare for war with it’s many border states.

nobar on August 6, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Israel is ALWAYS prepared for war with its many border states.

Wish they would do us all a favor and vanquish them all for good.

NoDonkey on August 6, 2012 at 10:14 AM

These fundamentalist uprisings serve to confirm a very old saying: better the devil you know.

OldEnglish on August 6, 2012 at 10:15 AM

Israel better prepare for war with it’s many border states.

nobar on August 6, 2012 at 10:07 AM

given the arab fighting mans record, that might finally settle this. in a way the arabs may not like.

t8stlikchkn on August 6, 2012 at 10:18 AM

Brilliant strategy we have going in the Middle East. Glad to see that conservatives have doubts about whether it is a good idea to back Al Qaeda or not…btw Al Qaeda is being funded by the US government right now. Great job!

All you need to know about whether wishing for the Arab spring is a good idea or not is find out who is backing it. Obama…pretty much clinches the deal that this isn’t a good idea. Clinton, another communist who thinks this is a good idea…and McCain who is so dumb that he lost to a community organizer.

Pretty much seals the deal that backing the Arab Spring is idiotic.

PierreLegrand on August 6, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Gingrich has been the only to even mention the oncoming ethnic cleansing of orthodox Christians. God help these people if 0 remains in power. He won’t lift a figure to help them.

budfox on August 6, 2012 at 10:24 AM

Doomberg on August 6, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Do you think there more region fighting in Islam across the Middle East? Sunnia vs Shia? the Kurds? And the all other divisions?

Oil Can on August 6, 2012 at 10:25 AM

Watching Iran’s closest ally and terrorist enabler fall will certainly give us momentary satisfaction, and hopefully might disrupt Hezbollah enough for Lebanon to free itself from their grip.

1.) There is no stopping Hezbollah who are as virulently anti-democratic rule as Iran,
2.) With the Яooskees sending arms, gun boats, and marines in order to maintain their foothold in Syria, what should America do?
3.) Let them all diminish the numbers of the opposition/freedom fighters,
4.) There is no way that peace will gain a foothold in that region in our lifetimes.
Meanwhile, it is NONE of OUR business.
How well are the illegal American actions in “Lybia”, Egypt, etc. going?
Dems are wont to toss out the worst for the worst of the worst. It is what they DO – much to OUR detriment of course.
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on August 6, 2012 at 10:28 AM

budfox on August 6, 2012 at 10:24 AM

I think you mean finger.

MelonCollie on August 6, 2012 at 10:28 AM

Clifford May has more optimism about the endgame than this excerpt suggests, but he urges intervention by the US in the rebellion in order to guarantee a better outcome.

There is stupidity, then their is utter mind numbing get’s innocent people killed stupidity, this is the latter variety of stupidity. There is no better outcome. The rebels are The Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda.

If and when the Assad Regime falls, it will fall to the worlds most ruthless and brutal terrorist organization. As bad as the Assad Regime is, it isn’t as evil or ruthless as the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda.

SWalker on August 6, 2012 at 10:32 AM

Do you think there more region fighting in Islam across the Middle East? Sunnia vs Shia? the Kurds? And the all other divisions?

Oil Can on August 6, 2012 at 10:25 AM

We’re seeing a long term power struggle going on here, with the key power centers of Shia Iran, Sunni Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. In the short term I’m reluctantly inclined to favor the Sauds and the Turks in this conflict, because the Iranians are currently a major threat to US interests. All three states share imperial ambitions in the Middle East, but the Iranians are both the most virulently anti-US, they are aiming for nuclear weapons, and they are in bed with China and Russia.

I’m quite sure that eventually the Sunni backed regime that topples Assad will become a problem, but I personally think leaving Assad as an Iranian sattelite state is worse. I do think we’re going to see further flare ups as the loose Saudi/Turkey alliance continues putting pressure on Iran.

There’s more going on here that we need to think about beyond fear that Obama may somehow get the credit if Assad falls. I think people should stop worrying about that, as Libya barely helped him and our lack of involvement means Syria will help him even less.

Doomberg on August 6, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Ok, now who is in charge of the WMD?

BetseyRoss on August 6, 2012 at 10:35 AM

Israel better prepare for war with it’s many border states.

nobar on August 6, 2012 at 10:07 AM

given the arab fighting mans record, that might finally settle this. in a way the arabs may not like.

t8stlikchkn on August 6, 2012 at 10:18 AM

When does it become time to defecate or vacate the commode?
Get this crapola over with once and for all. The Islamist imperialists must be vanquished.
AGAIN!
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on August 6, 2012 at 10:36 AM

The best outcome is a realignment of these false countries originally outlined by Brits with stones, literal stones.

If Syria breaks up, then Lebanon will too and eventually Iraq. For almost a hundred years, we forced these people to live in unnatural boundaries and now we’re watching it play out.

It would be like if the the Brits stepped in 1836 Texas and started drawing indiscriminate state lines from Dallam County and Oklahoma straight through Coahulla and then Baja, CA/Chihuahua to Lafayette, LA.

budfox on August 6, 2012 at 10:37 AM

Eddie Morra ‏@convert_trader

RT ATTENTION. RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR IN DAMASCUS REPORTS THAT PRESIDENT OF ARAB REPUBLIC OF SYRIA BASHAR AL ASSAD HAS BEEN KILLED OR INJURED.”
Retweeted by zerohedge

Oil Can on August 6, 2012 at 10:40 AM

Assad needs to initiate the Samson option – unleash the chems and kill everyone.

If it all goes well, Syria won’t be a problem for a long time. If it goes ever sweller, Syria won’t be.

That said – the Alawites can’t stay in power. With the un-occupied Iraq being Iranized, there must not be a territorial contingency of Shi’a states.

Masih ad-Dajjal on August 6, 2012 at 10:41 AM

What? and miss out on all that “moderation”……

ted c on August 6, 2012 at 10:42 AM

The dude is simply searching for a copy of Barks “Cairo Speech” to be used as a peaceful tool to bring all sides together.

Bishop on August 6, 2012 at 10:46 AM

ATTENTION. RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR IN DAMASCUS REPORTS THAT PRESIDENT OF ARAB REPUBLIC OF SYRIA BASHAR AL ASSAD HAS BEEN KILLED OR INJURED.”

O RLY…

It would explain the defection of the PM before this was announced.

teke184 on August 6, 2012 at 10:51 AM

The appointment of al-Hijab looks curious in retrospect. The Post notes that al-Hijab came from a town that has been in open rebellion for more than a year, Deir el-Zour in the east. Given the strong ties of tribes in Arab culture (a lesson that the US learned the hard way in Iraq), why would Assad have appointed al-Hijab in the first place? That would have been a huge red flag, unless Assad is so desperate for allies that al-Hijab was his only option, or at least the best of a bunch of high-risk choices. If that’s the case, then his regime is closer to collapse than many may have thought.

Assad thought he could co-opt that town by bringing in al-Hijab. He thought wrong.

It’s looking more like Syria will be the anvil instead of the hammer.

Steve Eggleston on August 6, 2012 at 10:52 AM

Archivarix on August 6, 2012 at 10:09 AM

I like your plan. I’ll even fill in point 2 – “Let them kill each other.”

Steve Eggleston on August 6, 2012 at 10:55 AM

If and when the Assad Regime falls, it will fall to the worlds most ruthless and brutal terrorist organization. As bad as the Assad Regime is, it isn’t as evil or ruthless as the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda.

SWalker on August 6, 2012 at 10:32 AM

Well stated.
Who wound up being worse, Batista or Castro?
That vaunted Liberal, JFK, threw freedom fighters under the bus and allowed a Communist, a Soviet puppet, to make life miserable in OUR back yard.
JFK also had Diem assassinated.
And … The rest is a very sad chapter in American history.
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on August 6, 2012 at 10:59 AM

Archivarix on August 6, 2012 at 10:09 AM

I like your plan. I’ll even fill in point 2 – “Let them kill each other.”

Steve Eggleston on August 6, 2012 at 10:55 AM

We should be funding both sides to make sure neither side ever gains an advantage and they keep fighting for decades, kind of like the Iraq-Iran war…

SWalker on August 6, 2012 at 11:02 AM


Syrian Prime Minister defects, flees to Jordan

To his credit, Michael slammed the door in his face. ;)

honsy on August 6, 2012 at 11:04 AM

I love how the mainstream media is portraying the rebels of freedom loving fighters.
Evidence to the contrary:
1. They execute Assad’s soldiers last week in cold blood. Feel free to google the film of it.
2. The rebels use child soldiers.
3. Already reports of rebels persecuting Christians.

Israel will need all the US support is can get when Assad’s regime is toppled. Reason enough to boot Obama out of office.

Mangofish26 on August 6, 2012 at 11:36 AM

Wait until Damascus is turned to rubble. Then the excitement will really begin…

zoyclem on August 6, 2012 at 11:40 AM

IF enough of the higher level politicians and generals and regular troops can defect, it is possible they can create a government and a military that can operate in a civilized manner and keep the more extreme elements under control. The key would be organizing and equipping a military which is nearly impossible without an economy. They can get the troops with a theme of “are you fighting for Assad or for Syria?” and now that there are some of the higher ranking military on the side of the rebels, they should be able to organize and there is some civilian leadership to form a government in exile.

They need to get some semblance of an economy going, though, probably in border regions. If they can pull off the creation of a government in exile that protects ALL Syrians, the Russians and the Chinese might be persuaded to switch sides on the issue.

crosspatch on August 6, 2012 at 11:48 AM

The guy who was Syria’s first person in space (back when the Soviets were blasting all kinds of people from communist and totalitarian states into orbit to show how worldly they were) also defected to Turkey yesterday.

Red Cloud on August 6, 2012 at 12:12 PM

Wait until Damascus is turned to rubble. Then the excitement will really begin…

zoyclem on August 6, 2012 at 11:40 AM

It already has been severely damaged. Assad shelled half the city for days trying to drive out the rebels.

Doomberg on August 6, 2012 at 1:36 PM

Arabs killing each other is not something the US should discourage.

I hope both sides continue to pound the crap out of each other.

merlich on August 6, 2012 at 1:47 PM

Oy. This guy will be angling for a big spot in the brokered follow-on government in Syria. Watch and see if he goes to Turkey next.

J.E. Dyer on August 6, 2012 at 2:47 PM

Who are the dummies?

Schadenfreude on August 6, 2012 at 3:36 PM

Don’t sell or give these guys any 5.56. We need it for ourselves.

claudius on August 7, 2012 at 9:28 AM

Clifford May has more optimism about the endgame than this excerpt suggests, but he urges intervention by the US in the rebellion in order to guarantee a better outcome.

Bad idea. We need to mind our own business. I’m okay with muslims killing each other. The fewer of them there are in the world, the better. Islam is a scourge that should be eliminated in any way necessary.

woodNfish on August 7, 2012 at 11:15 AM