Photo by Andrej Isakovic/AFP/Getty Images.
UPDATE: Leaders of Syria's main opposition group on Friday rejected calls from U.N. envoy Kofi Annan for dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad on the eve of Annan's Saturday visit.
Annan is set to visit Syria this weekend and has suggested that his job is to the "political process" necessary to bring the violent conflict to an end. He has also warned against the effectiveness of military intervention in the country, saying he hoped "no one is thinking very seriously of using force in this situation," the Associated Press reports.
Those remarks, however, have upset leaders of the Syrian National Council. In an interview with the AP, Burhan Ghalioun, one of the group's top officials, called Annan's remarks "disappointing" and said that they do "do not give a lot of hope for people in Syria being massacred every day."
Ghalioun, who is currently in exile, added that "it feels like we are watching the same movie being repeated over and over again." Other opposition leaders interviewed by the AP echoed Ghalioun's take on Annan's comments.
Reuters, meanwhile, reports that four more Syrian generals have defected and fled to Turkey, according to rebels. A total of seven brigadier generals (the fifth highest rank in the Syrian army) from Assad's forces have reportedly defected.
Thursday, March 8: Syrian deputy oil minister Abdo Hussameddin announced late Wednesday that he is resigning from the Assad regime to join the opposition movement. He is the highest-level political figure to do so since opposition revolts began in the country a year ago.
Hussameddin resigned via a Youtube video, recorded and distributed by a member of the opposition who asked that the location in which it was recorded not be revealed, according to the AFP. In it, the former government official said he was "joining the revolution of the people who reject injustice and the brutal campaign of the regime, which is seeking to crush the people's demand for freedom and dignity." Hussameddin also condemned Russia and China's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, calling them "partners in the killing of the Syrian people."
The former deputy oil minister said he'd been working for the Syrian government for 33 years. In the video, Hussameddin indicated that he believes the Syrian government will now "hunt down" his family and destroy his home in retaliation.
The "potentially significant" defection, as the BBC explains, could be the first sign of a more widespread change of loyalty by those close to Assad, or it could simply be an isolated incident.
A Washington Post article sheds some light on why the implications of Hussameddin's move are so up in the air: even a year after uprisings began in the country, non-Syrian observers (including the U.S. intelligence community) seem to know little about the country.
The Post story details the U.S.'s efforts to interpret the significance of what appear to be foreign transfers in the millions of dollars by elite Syrians with ties to Assad. The confusion is symptomatic of a larger intelligence drought: House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers told the paper that Syrian intelligence is a "mixed bag," and that reliable information "comes and goes."