Syrian prime minister Riad Hijab 'defects with three ministers'
'Rats are fleeing the ship' says Syria analyst as regime loses its highest profile member yet
THE SYRIAN opposition has attracted its most high-profile defector yet. Syrian prime minister Riad Hijab has fled to Jordan with his family. Hijab, who was only appointed PM two months ago, is from Syria’s Sunni majority, which has led the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, whose family is from the Alawite branch of Shia Islam.
Syrian TV said only that Hijab had been dismissed. The PM’s defection follows a weekend which saw the defections to Jordan of several Syrian intelligence officials, according to Al Jazeera. Saudi broadcaster Al Arabiya said three other ministers defected with Hijab.
The Guardian quotes Rime Allaf, associate fellow of the thinktank Chatham House, as saying defections from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime are no longer a matter of principle, but of survival. The “rats are fleeing the ship”, he said.
PREVIOUS HIGH-PROFILE DEFECTORS
THE AMBASSADOR: Nawaf al-Fares was the first senior diplomat to join the revolution when he defected on 12 July. Fares announced his departure in a video statement posted on Facebook, saying: "I declare that I have joined, from this moment, the ranks of the revolution of the Syrian people. I ask … the members of the military to join the revolution and to defend the country and the citizens."
THE GENERAL: Manaf Tlass, a member of Assad's inner circle, who attended military training with the president, defected to France via Turkey on 6 July. Like Ambassador Fares, he was a Sunni, one of only a few in Syria's upper security apparatus mostly dominated by the Assad family's minority Alawite sect.
THE TV PRESENTER: Ghatan Sleiba, who worked for the pro Assad al-Dunya channel and the state-owned al-Akhbariya network, arrived in Turkey after his defection on 26 June. Sleiba accused regime intelligence units of sending a gang to attack him with a knife and stealing more than £1,300, then blaming the attack on rebels.
THE PILOT: Colonel Hassan Hammadeh, a Syrian fighter pilot, defected on 21 June after flying his MiG-21 warplane on a training mission to Jordan. His was the first defection by an air force officer since the uprising began in March 2011. It was especially significant as Assad's late father and predecessor Hafez was an air force pilot and commander.
THE OIL MINISTER: Abdo Husameddin, an expert in petroleum engineering and became Oil Minister in 2009 . He defected on 7 March with a video denunciation. He was at the time the first regime member and the highest-ranking civilian to announce his defection publicly. ·