Syria’s ambassador to Iraq has defected and urged the army to “turn your guns on the criminals” of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, giving the anti-Assad uprising one of its biggest boosts in 16 months of bloodshed.
Nawaf al-Fares, who has close ties to the Syrian security services, was the first senior diplomat to desert Assad, following hard on the heels of Manaf Tlas, a brigadier general in the elite Republican Guard and a close friend of Assad.
Tlas, the son of a veteran former Syrian defence minister, has made no public comment since fleeing to Paris. But Fares posted a video statement on Facebook on Wednesday that repeatedly said government forces had been killing civilians.
“I declare that I have joined, from this moment, the ranks of the revolution of the Syrian people,” he said.
“I ask … the members of the military to join the revolution and to defend the country and the citizens. Turn your guns on the criminals from this regime …
“Every Syrian man has to join the revolution to remove this nightmare and this gang,” he said, accusing the Assad family and its allies of corruption and “destroying society” for 40 years.