Friday, June 22, 2012
Members of Bashar al-Assad's inner circle 'making secret plans to defect' as Syria air force colonel abandons attack mission and flies MiG to Jordan.
"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.
On Thursday a Syrian air force colonel became the first senior officer to defect in an aircraft after he abandoned a mission to attack the city of Dera’a and landed his MiG 21 fighter jet in Jordan.
The Daily Telegraph understands that the pilots of three other MiGs on the mission also considered defecting, but were worried about being turned away.....
However, a senior US official in Washington said some of those closest to the Syrian leader were now preparing to flee. “We are seeing members of Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle make plans to leave,” the official said.
This has even included moving large sums of money offshore into Lebanese and Chinese banks and making contact with opposition elements and Western governments.
Syrian opposition groups confirmed that they were actively courting American help to encourage more defections.
One senior opposition source 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. There are rumours that there is one who is really close to the president and we are expecting to see him out of the country soon.”....."