Assad’s Prime Minister Defects

by Clay Claiborne on August 7, 2012

The prime minister Farid Hijab has defected from the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and his arrival in Jordan has been confirmed by officials there. According to Syrian state T.V., the prime minister was fired. This defection has been in the works for months, getting family out was the biggest problem, as usual.

Meanwhile, the government assault on Aleppo has continued with increased intensity.

Twelve civilians slaughtered by warplane shelling in Sakhour district of Aleppo

11:08 AM PT: This defection shows for the thousandth time that the civil war in Syria is being fought between those still being held captive by a tyrant and his tiny clique of supporters, and those Syrians that have broken free of that captivity.

That drive to freedom started as part of the popular uprising that began in January 2011 and now 17 months later we can see that of all the countries of the Middle East and North Africa where the people decided to topple a long-standing dictator, it is the Syrians that have had the hardest row to hoe.

No other people have had to face this level of regime violence without meaningful international intervention.

Every day we hear of new massacres and atrocities as his regime pounds resistive communities all across Syrian with long-range artillery and tank fire, helicopter gunships and jet planes dropping cluster bombs. The “community of nations” has let Assad know firmly that using chemical weapons would be crossing a red line, but anything else is apparently fair game.

I fear the people of the world will long rue the day that it became acceptable to suppress one’s own population the way the Assad regime is being allowed to.

Kofi Annan’s peace plan was a bad joke on the Syrian people from the beginning. By making such nebulous questions like the cessation of arms smuggling a precondition for a ceasefire, he assured that Assad would always have an out. Now he can add Syrians to those other people in Bosnian, Rwanda, and Dafur that were massacred on his watch at the United Nations.

We now find that even Bashar al-Assad’s new prime minister, chosen only two months ago, was forced to take the job under threat of death. Even at the highest levels of his regime, Assad cannot depend on loyalty or genuine support to keep his people in line. This defection and the news that has come out with Riad Farid Hijab show definitively that this regime rules by terror. From defectors as high as the prime minister on down to the the working-class grunts that make up the backbone of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), we hear the same stories over and over again. They were kept at their post under threat of death. Defection is extremely difficult because if families are left behind, the regime will take its revenge on them. Many more would defect if only they could get themselves and their families out.

Beyond terror, Assad has been able to maintain his rule through strict control of the information that reaches Syrians. So many Syrian soldiers have said that they actually believed that they were going off to fight “foreign-backed armed terrorist gangs” because that is all they had heard over and over again. They defected when they found out the truth as they were ordered to open fire on unarmed protesters. That’s how the FSA was founded. A colonel defected with hundreds of his men on July 29, 2011 and founded the FSA in Deir ez-Zor after they had been ordered to open fire on unarmed protesters there.

The popular opposition to the Assad regime has from the very beginning been non-sectarian, and while it has been majority Sunni, as is Syria, it has had wide support among Christians, Shiite, and Alawite from the beginning. The Assad regime and its supporters have always sought to portray it otherwise. The Assad family has always ruled by pitting tribe against tribe and in this rebellion they have tried to keep the tribes closest to them under their thumb with a campaign of misinformation and outright fabrication designed to create fear among these minorities as to what might happen to them if the regime is overthrown.

To this end, and for international consumption, the Assad regime and its supporters have tried to portray the struggle as one of a legitimate government, albeit in need of reform, but legitimate nonetheless, besieged by foreign-backed Islamic terrorists bent of overthrowing a secular government and imposing Sharia law on Muslims and non-Muslims alike. While they may admit to some discontent among the Syrian people, the real forces behind this attempt at regime change are Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and behind them, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Zionist state.

This is the lie that they consistently put out to their own people and the world through the Syrian News Agency (SANA) and other state-controlled media outlets.

Of course, like all good lies, there is a grain of truth that makes them work. A small number of foreign jihadists have come to Syria to make mischief. The opposition has received some support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Not as much as those countries would like to take credit for, or the Assad regime would like to blame them for, but they have provided some walkie-talkies, maybe even some weapons, and most importantly, money to buy weapons from corrupt Syrian officials.

For all the talk about outside weapons coming into the conflict, it is clear that the FSA is fighting Assad with his own weapons and those weapons are being supplied, and no doubt resupplied, by Russia and other counties still in his corner. The CIA has also been trying to insinuate themselves into this conflict and have been positioning agents in Turkey is the past few months, but that is a long ways from running things.

The truth is Obama and the European Union countries really do not what to see Assad go, neither does Israel, they just need to sound like they do.

That is the real reason they don’t do more.

How can anyone seriously talk about popular support for this regime under these conditions of terror and media control? The same voices that tell us that the Assad regime has a real base of popular support that must be taken into account are precisely the same voices that told us that Ghadafi had genuine supporters in Libya. Once his terror apparatus disappeared, so did his supporters. Even when a new law banning praise of the Ghadafi regime was found unconstitutional by the Libyan courts, no one wanted to take advantage of the new ruling.

The difference between the regime and the FSA.

The supporters of the Assad regime know there is no way to convince people that the regime has not committed horrendous crimes against humanity. So they have sought to exaggerate every abuse by the FSA and fabricate other crimes against them so they can discredit the fighters opposing the Assad regime. There constant refrain is “both sides commit war crimes,” “both sides commit human rights abuses, “as though that was not true in every war that has ever been fought.

They seek to obliterate any distinction as to the magnitude of the war crimes or the reason for which they are fighting so that they can reduce the issue to this basic question.

Their defense of the Assad regime has reduced itself to portraying the Syrian revolution as a struggle between two armed groups, both equally bad, with the innocent Syrian civilians caught in the middle. This is a lie!

The truth is that the Syrian people have revolted against the dictatorship. After many months they have been forced to go over to armed struggle by the regime’s violence. The FSA is truly a people’s army made up of defectors from the state apparatus of repression and protesters that have taken up arms after being fired upon.

The oldest living city on the world, Damascus, and others almost as old, are being destroyed by bombardment because the Assad regime does not dare send in ground forces they know will only swell the ranks of the FSA. Along with thousand of lives destroyed, some of the oldest structured built by humanity on this planet are being reduced to rubble.

Henceforth, they will stand as monuments that remind the world what it allowed a tyrant to do to a people and a city.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Tony August 7, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Clay, as to why they ‘defect’, counterpunch has an article about the CIA and Pentagon in Africa which is relevant to why we see all these defectors from the Syrian government and military when the Pentagon begins to comes at them full blast. The are not defectors so much as simply just DESERTERS. Here is an excerpt from the counterpunch article I mention…

‘Numerically as well as in equipment inventory the Ethiopian army is the largest best equipped in Africa. The CIA has been paying the Ethiopian army’s salaries directly for some time now, as they have done in South Sudan since 2009.

Most of the Ethiopian army is little more than militias, often times paid in wheat “donated” by the UN’s World Food Program amongst others. These militias are made up largely of street boys recruited out of Addis Ababa’s teaming slums or village boys whose service is traded by their families for grain and a few dollars a month. These “soldiers” are mainly of the Oromo nationality, half or more of Ethiopia, and are lead by the remnants of the Tigrayan officer core from within which Meles Zenawi once found a power base.’ full article @

Clay, if the Pentagon and CIA have that much money of us US taxpayers in hand to pay for having armies of theirs under command in Ethiopia and South Sudan, which the US government split off of Sudan itself a year ago, then certainly they have plenty of more money to pay out to Syrian ‘defectors’/ DESERTERS and others inside Syria doing the fighting instead of Iowa farm boys and girls the Pentagon also recruits, don’t you think?


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 8, 2012 at 10:53 am

Yeah right. These guys are quiting for the state reasons. They could possible be patriotic because Assad’s not a mass murderer. They are bribe by the CIA. The proof? The US has lots of money, what other proof is necessary?

No need to explain how they were contacted, recruited, paid or how the CIA get their familes out.

Yeah, right.


Tony August 9, 2012 at 3:15 am

Clay, there is another reason they DESERT, too. The DESERTERS are all Sunni defectors and they simply do not want to end up alongside any losing Alawite grouping in this religious sectarian warfare you are cheering along calling that marxism to do so. You blame Assad for the religious sectarian side of the conflict, but that is rather silly to do so since theeese fault lines are huge and range far outside Syria and are a big factor in all the ME wars going on.

Here is an opinion piece in The Guardian’ that talks some about this context that you seem oblivious to other than to blame Assad for it as he, in your eyes, is the devil incarnate it seems….

‘In reality, the Syrian crisis always had multiple dimensions that crossed the region’s most sensitive fault lines. It was from the start a genuine uprising against an authoritarian regime. But it has also increasingly morphed into a sectarian conflict, in which the Alawite-dominated Assad government has been able to portray itself as the protector of minorities – Alawite, Christian and Kurdish – against a Sunni-dominated opposition tide.

The intervention of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf autocracies, which have tried to protect themselves from the wider Arab upheaval by playing the anti-Shia card, is transparently aimed at a sectarian, not a democratic, outcome. But it is the third dimension – Syria’s alliance with Tehran and Lebanon’s Shia resistance movement, Hezbollah – that has turned the Syrian struggle into a proxy war against Iran and a global conflict.

Many in the Syrian opposition would counter that they had no choice but to accept foreign support if they were to defend themselves against the regime’s brutality. But as the independent opposition leader Haytham Manna argues, the militarisation of the uprising weakened its popular and democratic base – while also dramatically increasing the death toll.

There is every chance the war could now spread outside Syria. Turkey, with a large Alawite population of its own as well as a long repressed Kurdish minority, claimed the right to intervene against Kurdish rebels in Syria after Damascus pulled its troops out of Kurdish towns. Clashes triggered by the Syrian war have intensified in Lebanon. If Syria were to fragment, the entire system of post-Ottoman Middle East states and borders could be thrown into question with it.’

For complete article see it @

I find it to be a rather weak analysis because the real spread of war will be to Iran and not Turkey if the US and Israel continue to get their way.


Arthur August 7, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I like the general thrust, but its better to avoid overstatement:

“How can anyone seriously talk about popular support for this regime under these conditions of terror and media control? The same voices that tell us that the Assad regime has a real base of popular support that must be taken into account are precisely the same voices that told us that Ghadafi had genuine supporters in Libya. Once his terror apparatus disappeared, so did his supporters. Even when a new law banning praise of the Ghadafi regime was found unconstitutional by the Libyan courts, no one wanted to take advantage of the new ruling.”

Its obvious that there are significant numbers of people in Libya who supported Ghadafi and who would be wise to shut up about that whatever the law says they are allowed to say.

It is equally obvious that there are significant numbers of people in Syria who support Assad.

Offering that as an argument for allowing the large majority to be suppressed is pathetic. But pretending otherwise only weakens the argument.


Brian S. August 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm

@Arthur. I agree: the conflation of Libya and Syria is unhelpful. Syria is a communally divided society and a communally structured state, which Libya was not. Its fairly clear that the regime has the support of the majority of the Alawite community, and a significant share (and probably the majority) of Christians. One of the objectives of the opposition has to be to break that up (much more difficult now that the struggle has become militiarised), That’s talking about committed support. There will also be a large group of “uncommitted” – people who have accepted o the regime in the past and not completely broken with it; others who just want the easiest life possible, and will lean to whoever offers that to them. In the French video I posted in an earlier thread, an FSA fighter talks about a 40:60 split – and that’s in a Sunni village in an opposition are. That may well have shifted significantly over the last 6 months, but there’s plenty of evidence from the on the ground press reports that there is still a significant current of uncertain opinion among the general population. There’s no point romanticising this reality – realism is what is needed in this situation.


Aaron Aarons August 7, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Mr Claiborne writes:
“I fear the people of the world will long rue the day that it became acceptable to suppress one’s own population the way the Assad regime is being allowed to.”

Further on he writes:
“Now he can add Syrians to those other people in Bosnian, Rwanda, and Dafur that were massacred on his watch at the United Nations.”

It’s interesting that Mr. Claiborne doesn’t mention the main arena of mass killing while Annan headed the U.N.: the Eastern Congo, along with Northern Uganda and other parts of the Great Lakes/Rift Valley region, where MANY MILLIONS have died from direct violence and its inevitable secondary consequences at the hands of the U.S.-armed governments of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi — many times the total deaths actually or allegedly caused by U.S.-designated bad guys in Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, Libya, Syria, etc..

And it’s very interesting that the killing of something on the order of 10,000 people by a government putting down an uprising marks “the day that it became acceptable to suppress one’s own population the way the Assad regime is being allowed to.” What about the killing of many tens of thousands of people in each of El Salvador and Guatemala during the 1980’s? Those suppressions were certainly treated as acceptable, when not being hidden from view, by the U.S. and allied imperialist rulers and their media microphones. Of course, those popular uprisings had a clear anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-Euro-supremacist nature, unlike the ones in Libya and Syria, making their suppression not only acceptable but necessary in the eyes of imperialism.

Keep at it, Mr. Claiborne! You are a competent scribe and have a bright future ahead of you as a mainstream journalist.


Tony August 9, 2012 at 3:19 am

Clay acts as if Assad in Syria is the only suppressor of people the world has ever seen. And it makes him sound ludicrous. If the guy would only spend a fraction of the passion he has in hating Assad AS AN AMERICAN in denouncing the US military instead, he might be better considered a real marxist.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 10, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Assad is the worst suppressor in the world today.

I have you seen the documentary I spent three years and what little money I has making? Vietnam: American Holocaust? Martin Sheen narates, Ron Kovics say is best Vietnam Doc., so do the Vietnamese, who translated and put on VTV4, and Russia Today which translates to 3 languages and put on RT.

It has been seen by millions but apparently not you. Google it and stop talking out of your ass.

Unlike many white people on the left, I don’t consider the US imperilaist “my” bougeoise.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 8, 2012 at 11:03 am

The Internet has allow these slaughters to be brought to the world in away the massacres of the ’80 never could.


Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: