Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hijab defection drives wedge into fractured party

The increasing defection of Sunni figures drives a wedge into an already fractured Baath

By Robert Fisk

"The highest ranking-defector yet – the Syrian Prime Minister, Riad Hijab – deserted President Bashar al-Assad yesterday and headed for the highest-paying supporter of the country's rebels: the oil-stuffed state of Qatar.

In a brutal war that encompasses almost as much cynicism as it does blood, Hijab's departure – while a highly symbolic blow at the regime – does not constitute a body blow for the President.

Like the generals and diplomats who have preceded him into exile, the Prime Minister was a Sunni Muslim, and it is the Alawite minority within the Baath Party and the government upon which Bashar relies. They still stand loyally behind him.

Mr Hijab left it to his spokesman in Jordan to announce that he had "defected from the killing and terrorist regime" and joined "the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution" and was henceforth "a soldier in this holy revolution".

Somehow, however, it seems unlikely – however "holy" the revolution – that the somewhat portly Mr Hijab will be firing an RPG-7 over the barricades of Aleppo. He is more likely to join the waffling hotchpotch of former regime "loyalists" who are now gathering around three separate and often antagonistic opposition "governments-in-exile", most of them grateful to the immensely wealthy emirate of Qatar, not to mention the profoundly "democratic" Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is backing the revolution...."

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