Several high-placed generals bolted Bashar Assad’s inner circle Sunday, July 17, including such key figures as two security services chiefs who were operations commanders of the Alawite Shabiha militia plus the former head of Syria’s chemical and biological administration who took six other generals with him. They all fled to Turkey and defected. A fourth senior general from another security service was assassinated in Aleppo. This is reported exclusively by DEBKAfile’s military sources.
The loss of the generals orchestrating the pro-Assad paramilitary Shabiha’s savage crackdown on the opposition has seriously weakened Assad’s protective circle of trusties and reduced his military and security options.
Also today, the Syrian ruler was given a “last warning” through intelligence channels in the West to leave the warheads and shells loaded with mustard gas, sarin and cyanide where they are. If he dared move them out of the northern and central locations where he deployed them last week, they would be destroyed from the air.
DEBKAfile names the defecting Shabiha commanders as: Gen. Mohamed Tatouh, Deputy chief of Syrian political intelligence, and Gen. Mohamed Kodissia, deputy chief of the “Palestinian” Intelligence agency (a misnomer: it has nothing to do with Palestinians).
The murdered general, Ali Khallouf, was ambushed by rebels in Aleppo.
Maj. Gen. Adnan Nawras Salou, a Sunnite, who headed the chemical warfare authority until 2008, will no doubt have important intelligence to offer the West about the Assad regime’s current activities and plans for his WMD.
DEBKAfile points to three singular features of the latest wave of defections:
1. They all managed to spirit their families out of Syria well before they absconded themselves, an operation that must have required weeks of careful and secret preparation. The failure of Assad’s many-tentacled, clandestine agencies to discover what was up and foil the walkouts, attests to serious lapses in their notorious efficiency.
2. All the defectors served in Damascus at the regime’s nerve center for suppressing the revolt.
3. They all made tracks for Beirut before making their way to Turkey. Neverthetheless, the extensive spy networks run by Iran and Hizballah in the Lebanese capital failed to pick up on the city’s use as a way station for Syrian defectors in flight to Turkey.
4. Despite their active roles in crushing the civil uprising in Syria, those generals clearly hoped to escape the consequences of their actions and becoming liable for prosecution. The Red Cross Committee in Geneva, the first international organization to call the violence in Syria a full-blown civil war, made it clear Sunday, July 15, that international humanitarian law applied henceforth throughout the country and provided a basis for war crimes prosecution, especially if civilians were attacked.