Senior Syrian official defects - joins opposition
What makes this news is that there have been so few of Assad's senior government officials who have become disgusted with the crackdown and left to join the opposition.
Recall that in Libya, there was a parade of government officials - including the foreign minister - who abandoned Qadaffi in the end. Might this be the start of something similar in Syria?
Syria's deputy oil minister announced his defection in an online video that emerged Thursday, making him the highest ranking civilian official to abandon the regime since the uprising against President Bashar Assad erupted a year ago.
Abdo Husameddine's announcement came one day after the top U.S. general said President Barack Obama has asked for a preliminary review of military options in Syria, as the conflict grows increasingly dire. The U.N. estimates 7,500 people have been killed.
"I do not want to end my life servicing the crimes of this regime," Husameddine said in a video posted on YouTube, adding that he was joining "the dignified people's revolution."
He appeared to address President Bashar Assad directly.
"You have inflicted on those you claim are your people a full year of sorrow and sadness, denied them the their basic rights to life and humanity and pushed the country to the edge of the abyss," said Husameddine, wearing a suit and tie and appearing to be reading from a paper.
It was not clear when or where the video was made. There was no comment from Damascus.
Husameddine identified himself as an "assistant" to the oil minister and a member of the ruling Baath Party and said he has served 33 years in various government positions. Cabinet ministers in Syria may have several assistants known as deputies.
The defection came as international condemnation on Assad mounts.
As Assad's crimes against humanity mount, it is likely that some of his senior generals and officials will abandon the Syria dictator in hopes of avoiding a trial at the Hague. But a wholesale defection from Assad's government is probably not in the cards. He has filled the most important civilian and military posts with his family, his cronies, and his fellow Alawites in order to forestall just such an eventuality.
Those people will stick with Assad to the bitter end.