Manaf Tlass

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Manaf Tlass
مناف طلاس
Birth name Manaf Mustafa Tlass
Born 1964 (age 49–50)
Rastan, Syria
Allegiance Syria Syria
Service/branch Syrian Arab Army
Years of service until 3 July 2012
Rank Brigadier General
Unit Republican Guard
Commands held 104th brigade[1]
Battles/wars Syrian Civil War
Rif Dimashq clashes (November 2011–March 2012)
Relations Mustafa Tlass (father)
Firas Tlass (brother)
Abdul Razzaq Tlass (cousin)

Manaf Tlass (Arabic: مناف طلاس‎) (born 1964; sometimes also transliterated as Manaf Tlas) is a former Brigadier General of the Syrian Republican Guard and member of Bashar al-Assad's inner circle.[2][3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Tlass was born in Rastan in 1964.[5] He is the son of the former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass[6] and Lamia Al Jabiri, a member of an aristocratic Aleppo family.[7] Businessman Firas Tlass is his elder brother. The Tlass family was the most famous Sunni family in Syria, known for supporting the Alawite-dominated regime.[8] On the other hand, the members of his family worked for the Ottoman suzerains as well as French occupiers after the First World War.[7]

Tlass was a close friend of Basil Assad, Hafez Assad's eldest son and heir apparent until his death in a 1994 car accident.[9] He later became close to Bashar Assad, having attended military college with Assad,[10] Bashar Assad regarded the Tlass brothers as peers and friends.[11]

Career[edit]

After Hafez Assad's death in 2000, Tlass became Bashar Assad's right-hand-man.[12] He also became a member of the central committee of the Baath Party in 2000.[13][14][15] He was also regarded as a potential candidate for leadership in future years.[12] In June 2005, Tlass was reelected to the central committee of the Baath Party.[11]

Tlass tried to help Bashar Assad increase his base of support by introducing him to members of the Sunni merchant class. Tlass also advocated reform as early as 2005, but he stressed that Assad was the best hope for reform. Tlass had also reportedly held unsuccessful talks with the Syrian opposition during the 2011 Syrian uprising.[6]

Tlass was promoted to the rank of one-star general in the Republican Guards, which is one of the core military units used to crush the uprising that began in 2011.[16] He commanded the 104th brigade that is located in Douma and Harasta in the Republican Guard together with Brigadier General Issam Zahreddine.[1] This brigade was led by Bashar Assad before he became President, and by Basil Assad until his death in 1994.[17]

Defection[edit]

Tlass is reported to have become increasingly frustrated in recent months over the violent crackdown by the security forces on protesters.[10] He was the first government official meeting with the opposition in March 2011 and trying to open a dialogue and find a political solution.[18] He was also involved in reconciliation efforts in rural Damascus, including Douma, Daraa, al-Tall, Homs and his home town Rastan.[18] His reconciliation efforts are said to have led to house arrest from May 2011 to his defection in July 2012.[10]

There are several accounts from activists of Tlass's role in the uprising. Some argued that he was under house arrest, and exempted from army duty since 2011. The hometown of the Tlass family, Rastan, became an early base for army defectors at the same period. Some activists also stated that the family was under strict supervision for a while due to their suspected sympathy with the uprising.[17]

Tlass tried to meet with Bashar Assad via a leading political figure who is not Syrian but is close to Assad a few days before leaving Syria. However, the meeting did not take place.[19]

It has been reported that he defected to Turkey in early July 2012 along with 23 other officers[20] after the Syrian intelligence services discovered he was a member of the opposition.[21] Bashar al Heraki, a member of the Syrian National Council states that Manaf Tlass was one of the regime’s main figures and that his defection is a sign of Bashar al Assad's losing power.[16] The case is reported to be as the first such case involving a high-ranking military commander.[22] On 6 July 2012, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated that Manaf Tlass is on his way to Paris[23] to join his family there.[24]

It was also revealed that his wife and son were in Beirut when Manaf Tlass left Damascus. After Tlass' defection, his wife and son left Beirut and went to Paris.[19]

After defection[edit]

Fabius stated on 12 July 2012 that Manaf Tlass and the members of the Syrian opposition formed contacts.[25] French President Francois Hollande confirmed on 17 July 2012 that Manaf Tlass was in Paris.[26] On the same day, Manaf Tlass published a statement in the French Press Agency. He called for "a constructive transition" in Syria and said the Syrian army had fought against the Syrian people.[27]

Tlass called on Syrians to unite and look towards a post-revolutionary Syria, in video address broadcast from Saudi Arabia on 24 July 2012. It was his first public appearance since he defected in early July 2012.[28]

“I speak to you as a defected member of the Syrian army, who refuses criminal violence … I speak to you as one of the sons of Syria."
“Honorable Syrian army officers do not accept the criminal acts in Syria … Allow me to serve Syria after [President Bashar] al-Assad’s era. We must all unite to serve Syria and promote stability in the country, rebuilding a free and democratic Syria.”
“Allow me to call on a united Syria, the new Syria ... should not be built on revenge, exclusion or monopoly.”

He said he did not blame those troops who have not defected, adding that “whatever mistakes made by some members of the Syrian Arab Army ... those honorable troops who have not partaken in the killing ... are the extension of the Free Syrian Army.”

His cousin, Abdul Razzak Tlass, had announced that his cousin Manaf provided him and several units of the Free Syrian Army with arms in order to counter the military campaign on Rastan. Also, Manaf’s older brother, Firas Tlas, declared his support for the opposition. Firas Tlass also admitted to offering humanitarian and relief aid to the Farouq Brigades in the Free Syrian Army which is commanded by his cousin Abdul Razzak Tlas.[29]

Visits[edit]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Tlass visited Saudi Arabia in the last week of July 2012. His visit was organized by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, newly appointed head of Saudi Intelligence.[30] During the visit, Tlass did the rituals of the Umrah in Mecca.[31] He confirmed his defection in an exclusive video for Saudi-based TV channel Al Arabiya and gave his first interview to the newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.[32]

Turkey[edit]

Tlass then went to Turkey on 26 July 2012[33][34] where he met with Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and the undersecretary of National Intelligence Organization, Hakan Fidan.[35]

Personal life[edit]

Tlass is a Sunni Muslim.[10] He is married to Tala Kheir Tlass.[36][37] They have a son, Ahmed Tlass.[19] His wife is from the Damascus upper middle class,[9] the daughter of a Damascus intellectual and granddaughter of the nationalist merchant, Adib Kheir.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "By All Means Necessary!". Human Rights Watch. December 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  2. ^ "Top Syrian general 'defects to Turkey'". The Guardian. 5 July 2012. 
  3. ^ Sharp, Jeremy M. (9 August 2011). "Unrest in Syria and U.S. Sanctions Against the Asad Regime". Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "Syria: Defection Rumors Rife; Annan Diplomacy Founders". Eurasia Review. 13 March 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  5. ^ Briscoe, Ivan; Floor Janssen Rosan Smits (November 2012). "Stability and economic recovery after Assad: key steps for Syria’s post-conflict transition". Clingendael: 1–51. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Bashar al-Assad's inner circle". BBC News. 6 July 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Kechichian, Joseph A. (27 July 2012). "Syria is bigger than individuals, says defected brigadier". Gulf News. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Olmert, Josef (6 July 2012). "With Tlass Defection Bashar Assad's Troubles Are Mounting". Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Ketz, Sammy (6 July 2012). "Manaf Tlass: from golden boy to dissident". AFP. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Profile: Manaf Tlas". BBC. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  11. ^ a b Hinnebusch, Raymond (2011). "The Ba'th Party in Post-Ba'thist Syria: President, Party and the Struggle for ‘Reform’". Middle East Critique 20 (2): 109–125. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  12. ^ a b c "Lt. Gen. Mustafa Tlass". Middle East Intelligence Bulletin 2 (6). 1 July 2000. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  13. ^ "President Hafez al Assad with Manaf Tlass, a young officer in the Syrian Army and son of his long-time friend Mustapha Tlass Next Previous". Syrian History. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  14. ^ Alan George (6 September 2003). Syria: Neither Bread Nor Freedom. Zed Books. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-84277-213-3. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  15. ^ Moubayed, Sami (26 May – 1 June 2005). "The faint smell of jasmine". Al Ahram Weekly 744. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Neil MacFarquhar (6 July 2012). "Military Confidante of Syria’s Assad Is Reported to Have Defected". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  17. ^ a b Malas, Nour (6 July 2012). "Defected Syrian General Heads to Paris as Diplomats Meet". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  18. ^ a b "Manaf Tlas: Syrian regime 'taking country to Hell'". BBC. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  19. ^ a b c Charara, Nasser (18 June 2012). "Manaf Tlass: The Defection Story". Al Akhbar. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  20. ^ "Syria death toll up as high-ranking army supporter of Assad defects to Turkey". Al Arabiya. 5 July 2012. 
  21. ^ "Report: Top Syrian officer, a close friend of Assad, defects and flees to Turkey". Haaretz. 5 July 2012. 
  22. ^ "Senior Assad ally defects to Turkey". Sky News. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  23. ^ "'Top Syrian defector' Manaf Tlas heads for Paris". BBC. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  24. ^ Sly, Liz (6 July 2012). "Senior Syrian military officer defects". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  25. ^ "Syria crisis: Deserter Manaf Tlas 'in touch with opposition'". BBC. 12 July 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  26. ^ "Manaf Tlass, Syrian General Who Defected, Is In France, Says French President". Huff Post. AP. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  27. ^ Ian Black; Julian Borger (17 July 2012). "Syrian armed rebels take fight to government troops in Damascus". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  28. ^ "Defected general calls for rebuilding free Syria, rejects ‘criminal’ violence". Al Arabiya. 25 July 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2012. 
  29. ^ Al Hindi, Omar (26 July 2012). "The life and times of the defecting Syrian army man, Manaf Tlas". Al Arabiya. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  30. ^ Jay Solomon; Sam Dagher (26 July 2012). "Key Role Floated for Syrian Defector". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  31. ^ "العميد المنشق عن النظام سوري مناف طلاس في العمرة". 25 July 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  32. ^ "Asharq Al-Awsat talks to General Manaf Tlass". 26 July 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  33. ^ "Defected Assad confidant visiting Turkey". Oregon Live. AP. 26 July 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  34. ^ Ergan, Uğur (26 July 2012). "Esad'ın eski sağ kolu tümgeneral Tlas'tan Ankara'ya kritik ziyaret (A critical visit to Ankara by Assad's old confidant)". Hürriyet (in Turkish). Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  35. ^ Şafak, Erdal (28 July 2012). "General’s Road map" (Translated from Turkish). Sabah. Retrieved 30 July 2012. 
  36. ^ "President Hafez al-Assad with the family of his long-time friend, Defense Minister Mustapha Tlass in 2000". Syrian History. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  37. ^ Oweis, Khaled Yacoub (5 July 2012). "Newsmaker: Syrian general breaks from Assad's inner circle". Reuters. Retrieved 5 July 2012.