Bashar al-Assad’s former defense minister has reached Istanbul after a defection that betrays cracks in the president’s support among his own Alawite sect, opposition and diplomatic sources said on Thursday.
Dismissing a cursory Syrian state television denial of the first Reuters report that General Ali Habib had been spirited across the Turkish frontier this week, opposition figures said Habib was likely to keep a low profile after evading house arrest and reaching Turkey with the aid of Western agents.
One prominent opposition figure also spoke of speculation that Habib, who is in his 70s and apparently broke with Assad after a crackdown on protesters in 2011, might be lined up by U.S. and Russian officials for a role in transitional arrangements to negotiate an end to the civil war.
The Turkish government has yet to confirm the general’s presence inside Turkey; however, Reuters notes that Habib has not been seen in public all week. If the reports are true, it would easily be one of the most high-profile defections to occur since the Syrian civil war began more than two years ago.
14:43 // 7 months ago
The police successfully emptied the park, on the strength of this violent intervention, which came quite swiftly after Prime Minister Erdogan warned, forebodingly, that his security forces “know how to clear” the areas.
16:58 // 10 months ago