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This was just reported on Al Jazeera minutes ago, No details yet, although I did find this posted on Foreign Policy five hours ago:

High-level Syrian military officers prepare to defect
Posted By Jennifer Parker Friday, June 22, 2012 - 9:33 AM

The Daily Telegraph reports that senior military officers from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime are preparing to join the opposition. U.S. officials told the newspaper that these figures have started to communicate with opposition forces and Western governments as they make contingency plans for the fall of the regime. The military officers have also started to move their money into Lebanese and Chinese banks. A senior opposition activist said "I know for sure there are some high-ranking officers who are waiting for the right chance to defect. We have names of people in the presidential palace." This report comes a day after a Syrian pilot, flying a MiG-21 fighter jet, defected to Jordan where he was granted asylum on ‘humanitarian grounds.' The pilot, Col. Hassan Merei al-Hamade, had been ordered to bomb Dera'a before he flew into Jordan's King Hussein air base. At least three other pilots flying MiG-21s on that same mission also considered defecting, according to the Telegraph.

If the Al Jazeera report is correct, this has just happened.

Also Al Jazeera has been running segments of an interview with the Syria pilot that defected yesterday. Look for that here if and when AJE makes it available on YouTube. Also come back here for more on this fast developing story.

After 16 months of heroic struggle on the part of the Syrian people, it looks like the wheels are finally coming off the cart!


                  Interview with Syrian pilot starts 0:40 secs in

The Telegraph posted this before the defection [9:00PM BST 21 Jun 2012]:

Leading Syrians prepare to defect
By Ruth Sherlock, Beirut, Suha Maayeh in Amman and Peter Foster in Washington

Members of Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle are secretly making plans to defect to the opposition should the Syrian regime become critically threatened by the rebellion, US officials have told The Daily Telegraph.

Senior military figures are understood to be laying down “exit strategies” and establishing lines of communication with the rebels to discuss how they would be received if they deserted.

The Times of Israel is reporting at this hour [June 22, 2012, 1:54 pm pst]:
BEIRUT (AP) — A Syrian activist group says four senior army officers have defected and joined the opposition.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights provided a video Friday purporting to show two brigadier generals and two colonels. They declared they were defecting.

And with these defections, more of the gory details of the Assad regimes crimes will come out, as with this June 3 report in Al Arabiya News:

Syrian air force officer defects, tells horrors of Houla massacre

A senior Syrian military officer decided to defect and join opposition forces after witnessing hundreds of pro-regime militiamen massacring more than 100 civilians in the town of Houla one week ago, a newspaper reported on Saturday.
...
However, the witness account of Major Jihad Raslan to the UK-based Observer online newspaper, defied the Syrian government’s propaganda and “made-up” scenarios.

Raslan’s account is considered to be the most important of the testimonies to have emerged since the massacre.

Raslan, who served until last Saturday in the Syrian Air Force in the strategic port city of Tartous, said he had been in Houla on leave when the town was shelled just after 1 p.m. last Friday. It was then invaded by a civilian and gang-like militia, known as the Shabiha, he said.

Raslan said he was in his house, around 300 meters from the site of the first massacre in the village of Taldous, when several hundred men, whom he knew to be Shabiha members, rode into town in cars and army trucks and on motorbikes.

“A lot of them were bald and many had beards,” he told The Observer. “Many wore white sports shoes and army pants. They were shouting: ‘Shabiha forever, for your eyes, Assad.’ It was very obvious who they were.

“We used to be told that armed groups killed people and the Free Syria Army burned down houses,” he said. “They lied to us. Now I saw what they did with my own eyes.”

And I wasn't going to do a BREAKING NEWS story today!

Turkish warplane shot down

The BREAKING story that I didn't cover this morning was the one I awoke to, namely that a Turkish F-4 warplane had been shot down by Syria. At the time I had only the Russia Today report and it was sketchy. The Turks were only saying that one of their planes had gone off radar and they were investigating, so I did the diary on US drones instead.

Since then there have been questions raised as to just what this Turkish plane would have been doing over Syria in the first place, if indeed, that were the case. The F-4 Phantom is an aging Vietnam War era fighter-bomber used by the Turks only for surveillance and training any more, if that gives you any clue.

Now at this hour, 3:30pm pst, according to Al Jazeera, Turkey is saying that yes, Syria shot down one of our planes and that Turkey "will determinedly take necessary steps" in response. Just what those steps might be hasn't been said yet but this might be a good time to remember that Turkey is a NATO member and if they conclude that they have been wronged, Turkey would be within its rights to call upon the alliance for backup.

Now the conspiracy theorist in me is wondering if the Turks didn't just dangle an old F-4 out there as bait and Assad just walked into a trap. Stay tuned for further details.

6:13pm pst More on the Turkish jet shoot down: According to several news sources, Syria is saying they didn't even know the plane was Turkish at the time they shot it down. This has certain implications. It is a scary thought that any country would shoot down an air plane just because it is an UFO.

Now we all know the situation along the Syria-Turkish border is a special case, for while the two countries aren't at war yet, something that is shades of it exists. Still, Turkey may well feel that the Syrian response quite excessive if the Turkish warplane hadn't used any weapons because if the two countries start shooting down each others planes if they stray across the line, a war is probably not that far off.

But if Syria is telling the truth and has in fact issued orders that any unidentified war plane is to be shoot down, that is a much more extreme policy. That could lead to the shooting down of a Syrian jet, and maybe that is the point. I think it quite possible that Assad has issued such orders and less out of a fear of imminent aerial attack from NATO and more in fear that other Syrian pilots will follow the lead of Colonel Hassan Merei al-Hamade and skedaddle.

Here are my related diaries:
UPDATED: Russia reported to be preparing to evacuate from Syria
BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria
BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
Syrian people rise up against the massacre
Another "Houla style" massacre in Syria
Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
Idlib, Syria protest today on anniversary of Kent State killings
BREAKING: Massive protests in Syria following Friday pray
Syria is bleeding
Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout

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Comment Preferences

  •  first reaction was (11+ / 0-)

    "waht took them so long?"

    But this

    as they make contingency plans for the fall of the regime. The military officers have also started to move their money into Lebanese and Chinese banks.
    may explain it.

    Republicans stand for raw, unbridled evil and greed and ignorance smothered in balloons and ribbons. -- Frank Zappa

    by Mnemosyne on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 12:35:57 PM PDT

    •  Yeah, while other Syrians are fleeing to the (10+ / 0-)

      closest border, these guys have make sure their money is safe and the villa is prepared before they can leave.

      Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

      by Clay Claiborne on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 12:40:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Maybe they are getting nervous about being (0+ / 0-)

      caught and charged. Time to leave....

      Inside Syria: You will never guess who arms the rebels

      For the regime, or at least the duplicitous members of it, supplying the enemy is a big business. Government officers also sell Kalashnikov bullets, which typically sold for less than 40 cents before the uprising, for about $4 each, according to Ahmed Al Sheikh, the leader of the armed opposition in Jabal al-Zawiya. He leads about 6,000 men from eight battalions that are collectively known as the Sham Falcons.

      Kalashnikovs are bought for about $1,000, he said. Rocket-propelled grenade launchers, complete with a set of four rockets, cost up to $4,000, as does a BKT machine gun.

      “These officers sell to us not because they love the revolution but because they love money,” Al Sheikh said of his chain of suppliers. “Their loyalty is to their pockets only, not the regime.”

      More from GlobalPost inside Syria: Syria's walking wounded

      While most of the sellers are corrupt officers, they said lower ranking soldiers have occasionally stolen supplies from government weapons storage and sold them to the rebel forces.

    •  Yes they should have done this earlier (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      glorificus

      but for the sake of the Syrian people, I am glad that they are doing this now...

  •  May whatever forces, even quantum fluctuations, (7+ / 0-)

    be with the Syrian people. It's not going to be pretty when the dam bursts on the Assad regime. He's still in deep denial that the end has arrived and that means there will be blood spilled.

    All my sig lines are hand-crafted by demented elves living in my skull.

    by ontheleftcoast on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 12:50:28 PM PDT

  •  I am thankful that the (5+ / 0-)

    neo-cons were not in power the last 4 years.   I shudder to think how many more wars would have been started and how many more civilians who would be dead right now.

    Elections indeed do have consequences.

  •  Syria is in a civil war (4+ / 0-)

    The fact that the rebels are supported by Saudi Arabia, does not speak well of them.    It also appears that beyond Assad the rebels also commit massacres based on the BBC News.  

    It is hard to know who is worst.  Assad or the rebels.   It seems that they are both terrible.  

  •  What is Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (0+ / 0-)
    Coventry - an unlikely home to prominent Syria activist

    Cited by virtually every major news outlet since an uprising against the iron rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March, the observatory has been a key source of news on the events in Syria.

  •  Thanks for keeping us up to date Clay. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    UnaSpenser, glorificus
  •  Rats and sinking ships (0+ / 0-)

    I wonder how long they'll be welcomed with open arms and not sidearms.

    Pretty hard to call a mulligan after overseeing the shelling of civilian areas with high explosives.

    I want a living planet, not just a living room.

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 03:02:39 PM PDT

  •  US not to directly arm Syrian opposition (0+ / 0-)
    Pentagon chief defends decision not to arm Syrian opposition
    June 23, 2012

    WASHINGTON: U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defended the Obama administration’s decision not to arm the Syrian opposition, saying the country risked being pushed into an all-out civil war if efforts to secure a smooth political transition fail.

    “We made a decision not to provide lethal assistance at this point. I know others have made their own decisions,” Panetta said in an interview Thursday.

    “But I think it’s very important right now that everybody focus on a smooth and responsible political transition,” he added.

    “If we don’t get this done in a responsible way, there’s a real danger that the situation there could deteriorate into a terrible civil war.”

    The defense secretary also said the United States was concerned about the possibility that shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, known as MANPADs, stolen from Libya last year during the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, could make their way to Syria. He cautioned, however, that he had seen no direct intelligence to confirm those fears.

    Panetta also expressed confidence that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles were not at risk.

    “We’re confident that these sites are being secured, and we see no evidence that any of them are in jeopardy of being violated,” Panetta said.

    •  Arming Syrian oppostion could have unintended (0+ / 0-)

      consequences. The west might be in the process of opening a Pandora's Box.

      As militants join Syria revolt, fears grow over arms flow

      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As evidence mounts of Islamic militant forces among the Syrian opposition, senior U.S. and European officials are increasingly alarmed by the prospect of sophisticated weapons falling into the hands of rebel groups that may be dangerous to Western interests, including al Qaeda.
      ...
      SIGNS OF AL QAEDA JOINING REBELS

      The urgency of Western concerns stems as much from the recipients of the weapons as the weapons themselves. High-level sources at multiple national intelligence services report increasing evidence that Islamic militants, including al Qaeda and its affiliates and other hard-line Sunni groups, had joined forces with opponents of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
      ...
      A western government source said that Al-Nusrah, a "spinoff" from al Qaeda's Iraq-based affiliate, was responsible for at least some atrocities that have occurred in Syria. The source said the group publicly confirmed its role in killings.

      Worries that sophisticated weapons could make their way to the wrong kind of Syrian rebels are one reason Washington remains wary of deeper U.S. involvement in the fighting.

      "It stands to reason that if any Middle Eastern nation is even considering giving arms to the Syrian opposition, it would take a measured approach and think twice about providing arms that could have unintended consequences," a U.S. official said.
      ...

      •  Most of the opposition arms came from the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        glorificus

        Syrian Army. In fact most of the opposition fighters have come from the Syrian Army.

        They did get some effective anti-tank weapons from outside, which as been an important help but not decisive.

        Ultimately Assad is going down because the kind of terror he has applied, shelling whole neighborhood into oblivion, murdering people's families, killing your own soldier when they refuse to slit the throats of children, the kind of terror you have been covering for, just doesn't work anymore.  

        Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

        by Clay Claiborne on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 12:14:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The first casualty of war is truth (0+ / 0-)
    The Real View From Syria

    Let me start with a question: When was the last time you can recall a Western news channel broadcasting the views of moderate people in Syria? Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t recall any examples. Western media only report the extremist views of the anti-government factions as ‘the voice of the Syrian people’ and show you images of war in Syria.
    ...
    I would be lying if I said Syria wasn’t going through troubles, but viewers of news media in the West cannot appreciate the extent to which the news reportings are inaccurate, some of it is intentional some of it isn’t.
    ...
    The question I keep asking myself is why is the Western media reporting Syria in the manner in which it does? I know people who have smuggled videos out of Homs that show an anti-Syrian Free Army view, which the BBC declined. I, myself, have had footage turned down on the grounds that they didn’t have time to show it.

    In the four years that I have visited Syria – all the many people from different walks of life and different political and religious beliefs, I have never met one – not one person – who wants foreign intervention in Syria.

    •  Syrian opposition calls for intervention (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      UnaSpenser

      From AFP Sunday, June 17, 2012 13:19 EDT

      Syrian opposition calls for intervention to save Homs

      ISTANBUL — The opposition Syrian National Council issued a cry for help Sunday to save Homs and other cities from attacks by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and repeated its call for UN intervention.

      “The country is under a violent attack, especially Homs,” said Abdel Basset Sayda, the leader of the SNC, Syria’s main opposition group.

      “This criminal regime is still trying to commit atrocities” in Homs and elsewhere, including the central town of Rastan and the northern city of Aleppo, he told journalists.

      The Syrian army tightened its grip Sunday on Homs, assaulting the besieged central city with shelling and gunfire.

      SNC spokeswoman Bassma Kodmani said the situation there was growing increasingly desperate.

      “The city is left with no food, no electricity, no water, no communications,” she told journalists.

      Other towns, including Rastan, “are living through tragic hours and days. We are calling for immediate humanitarian intervention in favour of the people of Syria”, she added.

      Sayda and Kodmani both repeated the SNC’s call for the United Nations to pressure Assad’s regime using Chapter VII of the UN charter, which allows measures to be imposed on a country under penalty of sanctions or force.

      S.O.S UN, your silence is killing us, Homs - Syria, 2 Sep 2011

      Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

      by Clay Claiborne on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 12:07:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Homs is a divided city. Atrocities from BOTH (0+ / 0-)

        sides in this conflict. It is the ordinary people who are suffering.

        Homs: A scarred and divided city
        9 May 2012

        Homs, a lively Syrian city once regarded as a place of peaceful co-existence, has borne the brunt of violence in Syria's 14-month long uprising.

        The neighbourhood of Baba Amr was its biggest target in a city activists now call the "capital of the revolution".

        Not a single building seems to have escaped the government's ferocious assault. Structures still standing are peppered with shrapnel, blackened by fire, fingers of concrete.

        Indiscriminate bombing ripped away entire floors of large residential blocks.

        "No government likes to shell its own people," says Homs Governor Ghassan Abdulal. "We had no choice. The armed groups were firing from civilian areas."
        ...
        "We thank the Syrian army for protecting us," the elderly head of the family said, waving his hands towards the broad avenue where a few Syrian soldiers wandered.

        But a few streets away, a woman spoke in whispers, saying her husband and sons were taken away last month and no news of them had returned. Her fear was palpable.

        Homs is a divided city, and dangerously so.

        In a central neighbourhood under government control some coffee shops were open, fruit and vegetable vendors sold their wares from wooden carts, and children played in the streets. Syrian soldiers manned makeshift checkpoints.

        Christians vulnerable in Syria
        Jun. 22, 2012

        Inside the besieged Syrian city of Homs, where hundreds of civilians are caught in a battle between rebels and government troops, a small group of Christians is making its own plea for safety.

        Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population, say they are particularly vulnerable to the violence sweeping the country of 22 million people. They are fearful that Syria will become another Iraq, with Christians caught in the crossfire between rival Islamic groups.
        ...
        “Hundreds of civilians are stuck in the old city of Homs, unable to leave and find refuge in safer areas, because of the ongoing armed confrontations,” said the group’s head of operations for the region, Beatrice Megevand-Roggo.

        The rebels have controlled the Christian neighborhoods of Hamidiyeh and Bustan Diwan since early February. Sporadic clashes between rebels and troops have forced tens of thousands of Christians to flee the neighborhoods to a relatively safe area known as the Valley of the Christians, just outside the city.
        ...
        Al-Jamal said that in past attempts, the army had agreed to a two-hour truce to allow the mediators to evacuate the besieged people but they were blocked by the rebels.
        ...
        Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, the Norwegian chief of the U.N. observer mission in the country, has demanded that all warring parties in the conflict allow safe passage for women, children and sick people trying to get out.

        •  So apparently you support Assad's shelling? (0+ / 0-)

          Since you quote favorably the statement of a Syrian official that they "had" to shell Homs [with 120mm artillery & 260mm motars -larger than anything the US Army has] because some people in those neighborhood were shooting at them with rifles and RPGs.

          This sound like the Vietnam War story that "We has to destroy the village, to save it."

          Do you really support such a policy? So if Obama has the Army open up on Oakwood, CA with tanks and says its because "Armed Gangs" [shoreline crips] were shooting at cops, you'll give him the same attaboy you giver Assad?

          The other proble is that Assad is lying. The brutality is 99% one side, from the Syrian 1%.

          Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

          by Clay Claiborne on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 07:39:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There are two sides to every story. You just (0+ / 0-)

            want to portray one side. Anyone who attempts to show both automatically becomes a supporter of the "enemy".

            I do not support Assad nor do I support the foreign armed opposition. Your kind of thinking is why these crises get out of hand and cause the deaths of thousands.

            Why don't you watch your own documentary again to see how atrocities are committed by both sides. Vietnam is a perfect example of how propaganda was used to mislead the public in order to go to war for regime change.

            Here's a good documentary on the tools of propaganda and how they are applied:

            The Power Principle – II: Propaganda

            •  The NLF didn't commit many atrocities. (0+ / 0-)

              Because they depended on growing popular support to win, not terror. The Syrian opposition also depends on growing popular support to win, and they have been getting it, which tells me the most Syrians don't think they are responsible for the terror.

              Atrocities come with war, so almost always, over time, you will be able to find atrocities committed by both sides and that allows people like you the speak in terms of black and white and draw a false equivalency like; Both sides committed atrocities. True, but only one side relies on atrocities as its method of suppressing the people. One side is using artillery, jets, attack helicopters, 260 mm mortars and tanks against civilian population centers. [ Oh yes, explosions in Damascus - we don't know who is really behind them no matter what SANA says]  One side is responsible for all of the killing, both in the sense that they are responsible for the vast majority of the killing directly and also for the defensive killing done by people who started out as peaceful protesters.

              What you are doing here in post after post after post is trying to excuse Assads policies and attack the opposition.

              Assad is a mass murderer. He has killed 15 thousand in 15 months and he is escalating the killing now with warplanes and attack helicopters and still you are opposed to regime change.

              Meaning you want a lot more Syrian to die or submit to his tyranny.

              I think that pretty much sums up your position once the dust has settled.

              Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

              by Clay Claiborne on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 12:48:40 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  The VCI got involved in and escalated atrocities (0+ / 0-)

                as a response to the American Phoenix Program. They started killing and terrorizing anyone they thought was involved with the US operation. They even had a 400 "neutralization quota" to match the US's quota system. So, the ordinary people ended up suffering twice as much.

                One side is using artillery, jets, attack helicopters, 260 mm mortars and tanks against civilian population centers.
                Are we talking Iraq or Afghanistan here?
                One side is responsible for all of the killing, both in the sense that they are responsible for the vast majority of the killing directly and also for the defensive killing done by people who started out as peaceful protesters.
                That sounds like a child's excuse for a squabble - "Mommy, HE started it."
                Meaning you want a lot more Syrian to die or submit to his tyranny.

                I think that pretty much sums up your position once the dust has settled.

                My position can be best summed up by this report:
                Article of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “On the Right Side of History”

                The more large-scale social movements appeared in the countries of the region, the more urgent became the issue of what policy should be pursued by external actors and the entire international community. Numerous expert discussions on that matter and subsequent practical actions of States and international organizations have outlined two main approaches: either to help the Arab peoples determine their own future by themselves, or to try to shape a new political reality to one's taste while taking advantage of the softening of state structures that had long been too rigid.
                ...
                For us, the issue of who is in power in Syria is not the major one; it is important to put an end to civilian deaths and to start a political dialogue in a situation where the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the country will be respected by all external actors. No violence can be justified. The shelling of residential areas by government troops is unacceptable, but it cannot be viewed as an indulgence for terrorist acts in Syrian cities, for murders conducted by insurgents opposed to the regime, including those of Al-Qaida.

                The logic that dictates the need to break the vicious circle of violence has manifested itself in the unilateral support that members of the UN Security Council have given to the Annan Plan. We are upset by the claims and actions of some actors involved in the Syrian situation that manifest their stake on the failure of the Special Envoy's efforts. Among them, are the calls of the Syrian National Council (SNC) leadership for foreign intervention. It is unclear how such claims would help SNC sponsors to unite the Syrian opposition under its umbrella. We stand for the integration of the Syrian opposition only on the platform of preparedness for political dialogue with the government - in exact accordance with the Annan Plan.
                ...

  •  I just want to say, Clay (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    glorificus

    How much I appreciate how your nose is always sniffing out injustice while your finger, nay - your whole being points toward justice.

    I'm doubly glad to be following you because now that I'm working, I have little time to do anything but work...

    Thanks.

    Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth - Abraham Lincoln

    by Gustogirl on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 09:16:08 PM PDT

    •  If I might add, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      glorificus

      I'm sure I'm not the only one who would appreciate a "roundup" of what all is going on in the ME.  I haven't heard about Tunisia or Libya in months.  The shenanigans by the Egyptian military have been on my morning corporate news - but honest, Clay - I simply have no time to look this stuff up,now that I'm working full time.

      This is why we have the profession called 'journalism'.  It is the people who investigate and report that keep the people aware.  What an uphill battle that has become, these days.

      Please keep keeping on.  You are a wonderful and reliable source of information.

      Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth - Abraham Lincoln

      by Gustogirl on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 11:55:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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