Syria Crisis Worsens Due to High-Level Defections
In this image made from a video released by the Syrian rebel ‘Baraa Brigades,’ a rebel fighter displays an ID card of a man he claims is an officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The man was one of 48 Iranians taken hostage over the weekend by the Free Syrian Army Baraa Brigades. The Iranian government says the men were on a religious pilgrimage to a Shiite shrine in Damascus. (AP Photo/Baraa Brigades via AP video)
August 6, 2012
| Security
| Middle East and North Africa
The dramatic defection over the weekend of two senior Syrian officials coupled with fierce fighting in Aleppo, the nation’s largest city, are significant setbacks for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that could point to the breakup of the government and possibly the Syrian state. It is unclear whether a busload of Iranian “pilgrims” taken hostage by the Syrian rebels are actually Iranian revolutionary guard members, but this incident has created another source of tension in the Syrian crisis. Meanwhile, Israel’s announcement that it is upgrading its missile defense system points to its growing concern about what will happen to Syria’s large missile arsenal after Assad leaves power.

Prime Minister Riad Hijab defected to Jordan over the weekend with his family and claimed there is genocide taking place in Syria. The Syrian government tried to blunt the damage from Hijab’s defection by claiming he was fired. Hijab, a Sunni, is believed to be the highest level Syrian official to defect since the uprising began last year. Syrian Brigadier General Ahmad Fares also defected to Turkey over the weekend. Fares’ defection will prove especially embarrassing to the regime since he was a Syrian hero and the nation’s first astronaut who spent eight days on the USSR’s Mir space station in 1987.

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