Manaf Tlass Defects
The story is now a headline: Alquds Alarabi (a Qatari-funded Arab nationalist newspaper based in London which – like all Qatari-funded media – has been increasingly vocal and strict in its adherence to Qatari foreign policy orientations) put it as the main headline.
Western media have been desperately looking for a high-level defection and they found it.
It will now be treated as the most important development in international relations since Rudolph Hess flew his plane to the UK on a bizarre mission during WWII.
Manaf maybe more sane than Hess, but the significance will have to be put in context.
The reaction of the regime will be predictable: he will be branded as a traitor and tales of his corruption (and the corruption of his family, if they join him) will be extensively detailed.
It will be said that he was about to be arrested on charges of embezzlement, corruption, and extortion when he fled Syria.
The regime will be careful at first in its reaction to test whether his father, Mustafa, will join him. The Syrian regime, however, can never explain this riddle: if those people are so bad (as they now say of former vice president Abdul-Halim Khaddam), how could they reach the top echelons of the regime, if it is supposed to be squeaky clean?
Manaf belongs to the group of royal brats in Syria: these were the sons of the top officials who attended the same schools and went on the same trips and who – to varying degrees – inherited power.
These were the sons of Khaddam and Hafez al-Assad, along with the Makhloufs, of course, and others. Manaf rose in the military which for long years was headed – in name, that is – by his father.
There is no question that his departure is a blow to the regime and to its propaganda. Here is a friend and confidante of Bashar: he is someone who was part of the very inner circle.
The opposition will welcome him with open arms – his first stop may be in Riyadh or the UAE, where his brother, Firas (a man who made a fortune from his ties to the regime), is based.
But none of the Western media or Syrian opposition media will raise serious questions about this man. He was a senior commander in the Republican Guards and has blood on his hands.
Is the search for high-ranking defectors so desperate that criminals and oppressors are welcomed to join the cause?
The recent Cairo document by the exile Syrian opposition made a distinction between members of the military with blood on their hands and members of the military who have no blood on their hands.
But how will that distinction be made after “liberation,” so to speak? Will members of the military be asked to roll up their sleeves and show their hands to see if there are stains or spots? Will all be spared except those whose hands are dripping with blood?
And how could Manaf be immune from the very war crimes accusations leveled at the regime by Western human rights organizations and by the Syrian exile opposition?
Will Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch request that he be arrested and charged with war crimes, in his capacity as a commander of a criminal and repressive arm of the regime?
Or will his crimes be forgotten (just as the crimes of Husain Kamil were forgotten once he defected to Jordan) because he may prove to be useful (idiot?) to Western governments?
It is highly likely that Saudi or Qatari media will host him and he will speak about his deep sorrow and about how he (very much like Khaddam) sought to bring down the regime – but from within?
If Western governments and the subservient Western human rights organizations are serious about their charges and about their statements, they are obligated to call for the arrest and punishment of Manaf Tlass.
But that is highly unlikely. The West is merely trying to replace one criminal regime with another. Israel wants to preserve the regime because it wants to continue to enjoy the fruits of its long undeclared peace treaty with the Assad regime.
The US and the West can only comply with Israel’s wishes. They may declare Manaf to be the savior of Syria. Where are the Syrian people in all this?