June 22nd, 2012
04:07 PM ET

U.S. sees Syrian military defections beginning to 'accelerate'

By Jamie Crawford, with reporting from Barbara Starr, Pam Benson, Arwa Damon and Ivan Watson

The defection of four senior Syrian military officers to the Syrian opposition this week is another sign that senior officials are turning away from the government of President Bashar al-Assad, the United States said Friday.

"We have had four senior Army officers - two brigadier generals and two colonels - defect yesterday and join the opposition," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "We have been calling for many, many weeks for members of the military to vote with their consciences and to break ties with Assad, and to refuse orders and to refuse to participate in the violence that's ongoing. So we are beginning to see this stream accelerate, and that's a good thing."

The defections came the same week a Syrian pilot landed his military jet in neighboring Jordan and announced his defection. Nuland said U.S. officials had not yet been in contact with the Syrian pilot, but were in contact with Jordanian authorities.

While there's no sign of collapse by Assad's most elite military units, the rank and file may be less loyal. Opposition sources say that some Syrian troops are deliberately missing their targets. U.S. officials say there is no way to confirm the reports, but the opposition forces are strong enough that Assad's most elite units cannot always respond everywhere they are needed.

“It stands to reason that if there are desertions from the ranks of the Syrian military there’s disgruntlement in the ranks. So far, it looks like a phenomenon limited mostly to Sunnis and to lower ranking officers," a U.S. official told CNN. "It remains to be seen whether the Syrian pilot’s request for asylum in Jordan will touch off similar actions.”

"We have an opposition - a set of opposition groups that is finding ways - they're not totally coalesced, but they are finding ways of organizing themselves more effectively," Pentagon spokesman George Little said at a press conference Thursday.

In addition to the defections, a senior U.S. official with access to the latest information said there's also an increasing supply of weapons from the Syrian military itself.

"They just purchase them from officers, the Syrian system is quite corrupt," said Andrew Tabler, an expert on Syria at the Washington Institute and author of "Lion's Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington's Battle with Syria." "Many times when people are stopped at checkpoints, soldiers ask if they'd like to buy any ammunition."

On his Facebook page earlier this week, Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, directed a post to members of the Syrian military, telling them they should "reconsider their support for a regime that is losing the battle."

Ford pointed out that the international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia prosecuted military officers for their roles in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, and suggested a similar process in Syria.

"I want to make it clear that the United States and the international community will work with the Syrian people to locate the military members responsible for this violence and hold them accountable," Ford wrote. "And we will support the future Syrian government's efforts to bring those people to justice.

"Soldiers should know that, under international law, they have a responsibility to uphold basic human rights and that they do not escape responsibility for violations simply because they are subject to orders."

Ford has been working out of the State Department in Washington since the United States shuttered its embassy in Syria and pulled out its remaining staff in February after the government there refused to address its security concerns.

In her briefing Friday, Nuland said there have been no reports at this stage of any senior officials in al-Assad's government defecting, but there are signs that some officials may be rethinking the longevity of al-Assad's rule.

"We have seen plenty of money flowing out of Syria," Nuland said. "We've seen plenty of family members moving out of Syria, and these are often good indications of how people feel about the staying power of the government."

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Filed under: Assad • Robert Ford • State Department • Syria
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Matt

    Sure Russia has close tie to the Syrian military. Basically the US is asking Russia to organize a coup against Assad to remove him, you want him to step aside he does not want to go, transition is basically a coup. As what occurred with Mubarak. So the end result if Russia does try to remove him an organizes a coup there is going to be factional in fighting among the regime we are talk about division strength against each other. Iran's relations with the regime is a separate matter entirely. That is the risk and if you think the place is in chaos now wait for divisions facing off. If you are not sure of the outcome why do. And that is the risk and if that happens there will be no transition.

    June 30, 2012 at 3:00 am | Reply
  2. so

    .plane NATO new fancy a in maybe day another fly to live and Syria leave folks run home a its ...gone going Going

    June 25, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  3. George Patton

    This is good news for the right-wing thugs in Washington. I remember that back in 1976, a Russian defector flew to that country whose name starts with a J, bringing his state of the art MIG with him and later handing over to the U.S. military for reverse engineering. I wonder just how much of our military technology was gained that way.

    June 24, 2012 at 10:46 am | Reply
  4. Mary

    why would a good God "bless" people who love bloodshedding activities and desire death more than life? becaue it is not a good God or a God at all whose behind that type of people.The real God hates rebellion and it is the activity for which Satan got thrown out of the Kingdom of God. The first rebel was satan. So keep showing your true colors because God in Heaven DOES NOT REQUIRE KILLING AND HATRED but the opposite in order to survive for His Kingdom. Anyone whose religion claims killing is ok is acting according to Satan not God. And don't ask about the Old Testament, that is OLD and the New Testament came in. No more sacrifices or killing or hatred, lest you want to go to hell.

    June 23, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Reply
    • Mary

      All religion who teach the law of hatred and not the one of love, will be judged and will be cu5t down and thrown into the fire by God himself. All who practice under the law of hatred is not with God. It is FORGIVNESS the key to enter the Kingdom of God. Forgivness is the law of love which the real Creator of all things and of the first humans goes by. No forgivness no seeing God and living eternally because it means you prefer to stick to the wicked nature of satan, which all humans have (until they are born again). If you choose to hate and to declare war and think of annhilation and hating from your brother to your foreigner you are transgressing against the real God and you will not get out of judgement from the real God. It is our choice , we have free wil, hatred or love? Jesus is the law of Love.

      June 23, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Reply
  5. Mary

    the world is fighting each other because the world is really fighting satan and all his dark spiritual realm, and that cannot be won over or erradicated nor satan unless it is thru God Almighty, Yawhve. We humans cannot do other than resist the devil who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. In the beginning he was a liar and he was the first rebel. His tree is a bad tree and all trees which do not produce good fruit get cut down and thrown into the lake of fire. All who proclaim killing is ok even in the name of god, is only following satan and satan only wants your death not your life. The real god , God Almighty, has sent His Son to die for all these horrendous nature in humans (desire to kill) but even that, satan advices his followers to reject and to even kill in the name of christ so no one can understand much less get saved. Rejecting God Almighty (which is Christ) means eternal death not life. Killing and praying for the enemy's death, and vengeance, and rebellion, and bloodshed and violence are from satan and those who practice it will go to hell alogn with satan. and the end is near....people prepare... there is no time to play around and be ignorant...'my people perish for lack of knowledge' said God and that means if you dont know the truth , even if yourcountry refuses you the truth, you will have no eternal life for rebelling against the true God Almighty.

    June 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  6. Obelisk ©™

    "Amnesty International is calling for an impartial investigation into mass graves found in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Sunday, India's Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission released a report saying a three-year investigation had uncovered 2,156 unidentified bodies in 38 sites in the region. In a statement released Monday, Amnesty International asked Indian officials to allow impartial forensic experts to carry out a thorough investigation of the skeletal remains. The rights group also urged Indian authorities to ensure the safety of the witnesses who gave statements to police during the investigation. Indian authorities conducted the inquiry in response to allegations that Indian security forces have committed rights abuses in fighting a more than two-decade-long Muslim separatist insurgency. Rights activists say at least 8,000 people have gone missing in Indian Kashmir since the separatists began fighting in 1989 for independence from Hindu-majority India or a merger with Muslim-majority Pakistan. Rebel attacks and Indian government crackdowns have killed at least 50,000 people

    June 23, 2012 at 11:46 am | Reply
  7. Obelisk ©™

    NEW YORK: Renowned Indian activist and novelist Arundhati Roy has decried the silence of the international community over the continued “brutal Indian occupation of Kashmir” and said Kashmiris should be given the right to self-determination……
    She said so little was known about the atrocities being committed by more than half a million Indian troops, the continuing repression and indignities let loose on Kashmiri men, women and children.
    More than 700,000 troops were concentrated in the tiny valley, with checkpoints at every nook and corner of Kashmiri towns and cities. The huge Indian presence, she added, was in sharp contrast with 160,000 US troops in Iraq.
    Ms Roy alleged that Indian army or security personnel were killing innocent young children and women.

    June 23, 2012 at 11:45 am | Reply
  8. ghb

    .road the down still is this but spring arab the by helped be will people palistian The

    June 23, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
  9. ghb


    June 23, 2012 at 11:43 am | Reply
  10. K_Daraa

    Mohammad, the Jabhat an Nusrah (Al Nusrah Front) are NOT Mujahideen. They are Sunni takfiriin foreign invaders of Syria, and just as murderous, or more so, than the regime Shahibiin. Your real Mujahideen were the original founding members of the Free Syrian Army, who were Muslim Brotherhood, NOT Al Qaeda like the An Nusrah Front. Mohammad, your 'beloved America' does not encourage religious intolerance. If the FSA joins with An Nusrah takfiriin, this fight becomes sectarian, and VERY RELIGIOUSLY INTOLERANT, with takfiriin bombing neighbourhoods of Shi'ite, Druze, and Christians. Unfortunately, the American government is torn by what to do. This is a self-solving problem, because as the sunni extremists interfere further n the Syrian Civil War (think Saudi Arabian wahhabi royalty sending money to AQ), American support for Syrian oppositionists will evaporate like water poured on desert sands at mid-day in July.

    June 23, 2012 at 5:51 am | Reply
  11. Mohammad

    The Muslim mujahideen will defeat this killer of the innocents . I wish my beloved America would start helping the hapless palestinians who are also victims of a terrible apartheid imposed on them by a racist nationalistic movement called Zionism. People wake up your being tricked by a sinister movement called Zionism.which has a massive influence over America.

    June 23, 2012 at 1:20 am | Reply
  12. Mohammad

    May Allah bless the free Syrian army those brave souls will defeat the kafar bashar al Assad. It will be a long hard fought battle but in the end freedom will prevail over tyranny. Bashar what awaits you in the hellfire will you will meet Satan is gonna be suitable for your evil soul. May Allah bless Syrian people in a new country were people should be free and the Christians given full protection.

    June 23, 2012 at 1:13 am | Reply
    • Scott

      Hey while you are calling on Gods like Allah to help, don't forget Jehova, Zues's (hes got super cool lightning bolts), or Vishnu, or the mighty RA, Heck lets all pray to the great spaghetti monster to help with the killing, because they are all just as real.

      The greatest day in human history will be when we have evolved a combined intellect advanced enough to forget Religion as the fairytale nonsense lies that they all are. Then we will have no excuse for our violence or killing.

      June 23, 2012 at 4:56 am | Reply
  13. DB

    Believe half of what you hear, form judgements on common since, act with discression.

    June 22, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Reply
  14. tright

    All lies and propaganda.

    June 22, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Reply
  15. Masamune27

    I think the defections are a good thing and are the beginning of President Assad's downfall.

    June 22, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Reply
  16. mk

    .are they course Of

    June 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Reply
  17. mk

    .do you course Of

    June 22, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  18. leonidas

    “We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force. Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: ‘Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.’ I consider it all hopeless at this point. We shall have to try to prevent things from coming to that, if at all possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.

    June 22, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Reply
  19. lkhgds

    .yet anything learned you have

    June 22, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  20. lkhgds

    do you see what i see

    June 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Reply
  21. lkhgds


    June 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Reply
  22. the real chris

    ford told the same lies to gadaffi's soldiers in libya! and right now they are being TORTURED TO DEATH at the hands of the libyan TNC AL-QAEDA REBELS! the black citizens of libya are being forced to EAT THE FLAG OF THE AL-JAMIRYA of gadaffi. where is robert ford in regards to the crimes against humanity that the al-qaedarebels in libya are committing?

    robert ford is a liar!

    June 22, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Reply
  23. lkhgds


    June 22, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Reply
  24. the real chris

    victoria nuland is a LIAR!! america is attempting the same thing that they did in libya!

    June 22, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Reply
  25. the real chris

    @phony chris.......blitz is 100% correct! and all america wants is to destabilize the country anyway,same as we did in libya. guess you havent heard how our new al-qaeda allies in libya bombed the US embassy in benghazi two weeks ago.

    guess you also havent heard how our new al-qaeda allies in benghazi tried to ASSASINATE THE BRITISH AMBASSADOR to libya also? CNN reported NOTHING on those stories because the obama admin doesnt want us to know that he backed AL-QAEDA in libya. CNN can print all of the lies and propoganda that it wants too. the russians have already threaten to kill any nato troop or fighter pilot that attacks assad,and their opinion is the only one that matters!

    June 22, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Reply
  26. Zack Jalamani

    Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria says, "I want to make it clear that the United States and the international community will work with the Syrian people to locate the military members responsible for this violence and hold them accountable," Ford wrote. "And we will support the future Syrian government's efforts to bring those people to justice."

    "Soldiers should know that, under international law, they have a responsibility to uphold basic human rights and that they do not escape responsibility for violations simply because they are subject to orders."

    I hope Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Ford know that these same statements and rules apply to "Israel's" daily crimes against the Palestinian people in Palestine and elsewhere.

    June 22, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Reply
    • the real chris

      well said jack,what robert ford selectively forgets is that we...AMERICA MURDERED over FIFTY THOUSAND LIBYANS in the name of protecting the same citizens that we MURDERED! the russians are doing the right thing by preventing US from slaughtering another country under the disguise of protecting them. some one has to put a stop to the killer obama admin!

      June 22, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Reply
      • jbm66

        You should change your name to the real idiot Chris. Funny how Assad is slaghtering his people daily and torturing women and children, systematic rape and you are too blind stupid and racist to see it and jump into the Israeli Palistinian conflict...

        June 22, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
      • the real chris

        @jbm66 you are telling the same lies that you told during the libyan al-qaeda revolt! you seem to forget that as of TODAY,THE FLAG OF AL-QAEDA FLY'S FREELY OVER ALL GOVT BUILDINGS IN LIBYA! all you have to do is do a web search on the heading that I just gave you to see for yourself!

        you seem to forget that just two weeks ago,the same rebels that WE helped put in power in libya BOMBED OUR EMBASSY THERE!

        you seem to forget that the same al-qaeda rebels that we put in place tried to ASSASINATE THE BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO LIBYA! you probably dont know about any of these events because OUR MEDIA REFUSED TO REPORT ANY OF THOSE INCIDENTS! INCLUDING CNN!!

        USE YOUR OWN BRAIN FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE AND STOP LISTENING TO THE LIES THAT OUR GOVT FEEDS YOU! it makes no difference what YOU tell anyway! the russians have already told the fraud obama that he will defend syria! and the so called pictures from the so called Houla massacre were actually from IRAQ in the year 2003!! now who is the dummy?

        June 22, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  27. historian

    All these officers form seprate little rebellions, all hoping to be top dog if a new military is formed.

    Plus, Israeli money is attractive..

    June 22, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Reply
    • blitz


      These ate rebel terrorists, funded by out of state players.

      Israel, Saud, US, all trying to wrest regional power from Chinas allies.

      Look at the big picture...

      June 22, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Reply
      • chris

        Kid china owns the US both economically and with the shear number of dollar reserves it has. US and china can't be enemies cause neither countries economy can survive without the other. Stop listening to conspiracy bs.

        June 22, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
      • zulu

        Chris, blitz had a much better grasp of the situ than yourself.....stop acting hard...

        June 24, 2012 at 3:24 am |

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