The defections of the Syrian Prime Minister and other top government officials in recent days show that the discredited regime of President Bashar al-Assad is "crumbling from within," the U.S. said late on Monday.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said such high-level defections signaled that President Assad's grip on power was "loosening," and added that his failure to maintain cohesion within his own inner circle "reflects on his inability to maintain any following among the Syrian people that isn't brought about at the point of a gun."
Carney said the fact that "the titular head of the Syrian government has rejected the ongoing slaughter being carried out at Assad's direction only reinforces that the Assad regime is crumbling from within and that the Syrian people believe that Assad's days are numbered."
The White House official said the momentum was currently with the Opposition and the Syrian people. He noted that it has now become clear that "Assad cannot restore his control over the country because the Syrian people will not allow it. "
"The quickest way to end the bloodshed and suffering of the Syrian people is for Assad to step aside to enable a peaceful political transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Syrian people," Carney added.
Earlier on Monday, Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab had announced his defection to the Opposition after fleeing with his family to neighboring Jordan. Further, some unconfirmed reports speculated that two other Ministers have also defected with Hijab, who was named Premier on June 23.
"I announce that I am from today a soldier in this blessed revolution," Hijab was quoted as saying in a statement read out on his behalf by spokesman Muhammad al-Etri on the al-Jazeera TV in Jordan. The spokesman did not reveal the exact whereabouts of Hijab, but said the defected PM was currently at a "safe location."
Nevertheless, the Syrian state media reported that Hijab was sacked from his post without specifying why he was dismissed. The state media also named Omar Ghalawanji as Hijab's replacement, and said he would now lead a care-taker government. The announcement was made shortly after a bomb blast at the state TV building in Damascus that injured at least three people.
With his defection, Hijab became the highest-ranking official to desert the Assad regime. Incidentally, Hijab is a Sunni Muslim from the Deir al-Zour area of eastern Syria, which has been a major center of the anti-Assad uprising.
Last month, Nawaf Fares, Syrian Ambassador to Baghdad since 2008, defected to the Opposition and resigned as a member of the ruling Baath Party. Days earlier, Brigadier-General Manaf Tlas, a senior commander in Syria's Republican Guard and a close friend of Assad, defected to Turkey.
Incidentally, Gen. Tlas, like Fares and Hijab, is a Sunni Muslim and was a rare representative of the majority community in the Syrian leadership dominated by members of Assad's fellow Alawite community.
Although Syrian security forces have managed to retain their control over Damascus despite repeated attempts made by rebel fighters to capture the city, Syria's largest city of Aleppo has been the center of intense fighting between government and opposition forces over the past two weeks. Reports indicate that the regime is using fighter jets as well as helicopter gunships and heavy artillery in the offensive against the rebels.
The U.N. estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011. The Opposition, however, claims the actual death toll to be closer to 20,000. The ongoing conflict in Syria is now viewed as a civil war by most of the international community.
by RTT Staff Writer
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