yrian opposition officials are reporting that Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, a commander in the elite Republican Guards and a member of President Bashar al-Assad's gilded inner circle, has fled the country and defected. Tlass is not only a close friend of Assad (pictured), he's also the son of longtime Defense Minister Gen. Mustafa Tlass, a key ally of Assad's father, late Syrian strongman Hafez al-Assad. News of the defection cheered opponents of the Assad regime meeting in Paris for a "Friends of Syria" conference with sponsors from more than 100 nations, including the U.S. Separately, The Wall Street Journal is profiling Syria's highest-ranking civilian defector, former deputy oil minister Abdo Husameddin, who claims that many government employees are "defecting silently" while staying at their jobs.
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