The Middle East Channel

High-level Syrian military officers prepare to defect

The Daily Telegraph reports that senior military officers from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime are preparing to join the opposition. U.S. officials told the newspaper that these figures have started to communicate with opposition forces and Western governments as they make contingency plans for the fall of the regime. The military officers have also started to move their money into Lebanese and Chinese banks. A senior opposition activist said "I know for sure there are some high-ranking officers who are waiting for the right chance to defect. We have names of people in the presidential palace." This report comes a day after a Syrian pilot, flying a MiG-21 fighter jet, defected to Jordan where he was granted asylum on ‘humanitarian grounds.' The pilot, Col. Hassan Merei al-Hamade, had been ordered to bomb Dera'a before he flew into Jordan's King Hussein air base. At least three other pilots flying MiG-21s on that same mission also considered defecting, according to the Telegraph.

The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said Thursday was the most violent day of the Syrian uprising since the start of the ceasefire on April 12. According to Rahman's organization, at least 104 civilians, 54 soldiers, and 10 rebel fighters were killed throughout the country. The bloodiest areas were Homs and Douma, near Damascus. Meanwhile, Senior U.S. and European officials are growing alarmed at the increased militarization of the conflict. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in an interview that America worried sophisticated arms, like shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, might get into the wrong hands, specifically al Qaeda affiliates, who have increasingly joined opposition forces. This comes a day after the New York Times reported that the Central Intelligence Agency was helping to facilitate the flow of weapons into Syria.

Headlines

  • The Turkish government has abandoned legislation that would have required all abortions to occur within the first six weeks of pregnancy, instead of the first ten weeks.
  • Three cars loaded with weapons were attacked by Tunisian jets near the Libya-Algeria border.
  • Egyptians have gathered in Tahrir Square to protest against the ruling military council's consolidation of power. The demonstrators, numbering in the thousands, also await the results of the runoff presidential election.
  • Two roadside bombs exploded at a market in northern Baghdad, killing 14 people and wounding 106.
  • Juma Obaidi al-Jazawi, a Libyan military prosecutor, was shot dead in Benghazi as he exited a Mosque.

Arguments & Analysis

Widespread Condemnation for Assad in Neighboring Countries' (Pew Global Attitudes Project)

"With the uprising against him showing no signs of abating, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is widely unpopular in neighboring countries. And the vast majority of Jordanians, Egyptians, Tunisians and Turks would like to see him step down. In Lebanon, however, views differ sharply along sectarian lines, with Shia Muslims overwhelmingly expressing support for the Assad regime. Even though many would like to see Assad out of office, there is no consensus on taking action to dislodge him from power. There is limited support for tougher international economic sanctions or Arab military intervention, and very little support for Western military action. These are among the key findings from a survey by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, conducted from March 19 to April 20, prior to the May 25 massacre in Houla, Syria, as well as other recent acts of violence against civilians by pro-Assad forces."

Hamas violence undermines the real resistance' (The National)

"The violence that has plagued Gaza over the past four days may be ended by a truce offered to Israel by the military wing of Hamas. But the group is using tactics from an outdated playbook. The occupation of Palestinian lands must be fought in political, public and legal arenas, where Israel is weak. The battlefield plays to its strengths... The occupation is being challenged in Israel's courts; the international movement to sanction Israel is growing in reach and support; and the rise of new, responsive governments in the Arab world means that public support for Palestine will filter into policy. Hamas is not part of any of this."

Syria's Propaganda Cloud: How the West Is Falling for Misinformation' (Riad al Khouri, The Daily Beast)

"Today, money is coming into the country from many sources, including Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, among other nations who are supporting one or more of the various players. Yet such political inflows of funds have a tendency to eventually do more harm than good. Some of those inflows, for instance, are funding propaganda, which serves to exaggerate Syria's genuine problems-economic and otherwise-as part of a great spectacle to sway world opinion. This includes Saudi money coming into Syria via Lebanon to fund demonstrations, with people getting $30 a day to protest-in front of cameras and microphones, of course. That isn't to say that there aren't many genuine demonstrators with real grievances; at the same time, the government habitually stages its own propaganda shows, also inducing people to whoop it up for the media. Such stage-management, along with fake torture videos and a host of other propaganda stunts, provide false justification for or against outside meddling, with some Europeans and certain people in Washington pushing for various military options, and a broad group led by Russia and China, but also including many in the region, calling for diplomatic solutions to the crisis."

--By Jennifer Parker 

AFP/Getty Images

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