The first ambassador to abandon Syrian President Bashar Assad has called on the army to “turn your guns on the criminals” of the government, as troops swarmed into a suburb of the capital on July 12 to flush out ‘rebels’. Nawaf Al-Fares, who has close ties to the security services, was Syria’s ambassador to its neighbour Iraq, one of its few friends in the region. Coming just days after the desertion of Manaf Tlas, a brigadier general in the elite Republican Guard who grew up with the president, Fares’s defection gave the anti-Assad uprising one of its biggest boosts in 16 months of bloodshed. 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 July 11 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.