Everybody has heard that the minor event of Manaf Tlas’s desertion to Turkey and then, France, has captured the imagination of jaded (and frustrated) journalists around the Western World.  Let’s forget that Major General Manaf Mustapha Tlas was under house arrest when he made his daring escape after his father arranged it with Dr. Bashar Al-Assad.  According to western sources, he was about to be arrested within two days for complicity with terrorists, but, got wind of the whole affair and decided he could duck his Military Intelligence unit and make it across the landmine infested northern border of Syria.   

But SyrPer always gets the real news from the real sources.  And here it is:  Manaf Tlas was a disgraced officer in the Syrian army for his bungled handling of the armed rebellion in Harasta and Zabadani.  He actually negotiated a deal with terrorist criminals and army deserters to allow them to remain armed and in place as long as “they did not fire at anyone”.  Well!  Isn’t that precious?

 Ecce Minibus! You almost want to slap him and tell him to eat everything on his plate. Manaf is depicted here as a colonel.

The deal he struck with the deserters got the commander of the Republican Guards, Maj. Gen. Hafez Makhlouf, going ballistic.  Manaf was the commander of a small unit, the 105 Battle Regiment of the Republican Guards, and had little authority to negotiate anything of the kind.  It is reported that Gen. Makhlouf took the matter straight to Dr. Assad and demanded that any protection be lifted so that Manaf could be sent to a desk job pushing pencils and sneaking shots of cognac.  President Assad assented and Manaf was seconded to the Republican Guard headquarters in Al-Mazzeh where he began to connive and deceive his watchers with little success.  

It is said that former and disgraced American ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, smelled a wounded calf and commenced a series of contacts with Manaf Tlas.  It was also reported to me that his father, former Defense Minister and long time Assad family loyalist, Maj. Gen. Mustapha Tlas, implored Bashar not to allow any harm to come to his wastrel of a son.  Dr. Assad issued an order to all heads of security to insure that the miscreant was allowed all the time he needed to drink himself to death.  But, he was under house arrest.  This is essentially the end of his career.  I received word that Gen. Makhlouf wanted him jailed but was denied that bit of satisfaction by Dr. Assad.

Manaf was never cut out for the military.  He wasn’t even cut out for retail. To make his father proud, he entered the Military Academy at Homs at a time when Bashar was also doing his OTC there.  They were naturally attracted to one another socially due to the close relationship between their fathers.  However, Bashar was very dweebish and icy whereas Manaf was committed to emulating his father; with all that machismo and display. 

         General Tlas, very affable and approachable.  I met him in 1983 when he looked like this.
Manaf Tlas had disappeared from the Assad “inner circle” by May of 2011.  My sources tell me that Dr. Assad was also shocked at the somewhat blithe way Manaf conjured up his idiotic plan to resolve the rebellion at Harasta, a town outside Damascus.  I was also told that Dr. Assad was personally embarrassed at having to place him under “limited” house arrest and did so, only grudgingly, to appease his maternal first cousin’s wrath.   General Maher Al-Assad also played a role in Manaf’s eventual political vaporization. 

When Manaf began contacting members of the militarized opposition,  his file was passed on to Military Intelligence and the desk of General Abdel-Fattah Qudsiyya.  Surveillance was conducted at all times and Manaf’s contacts with unsavory characters in the so-called “opposition” were detailed.  It was a matter of time before his actions would necessitate an humiliating arrest. 

I have been told that Dr. Assad contacted Gen. Tlas, the father, who lives in Paris due to a need to have his pacemaker constantly monitored.  Tlas begged Dr. Bashar Al-Assad not to bring “disgrace” upon the Tlas family with an arrest.  Dr. Assad agreed to permit Manaf to leave with his family at a time to be decided by him.  Manaf’s son, however, was studying in Beirut and had to complete his semester.  Everyone agreed to this.

Syria has done this before.  Dr. George Habash, was allowed to “escape” in 1968 by order of Gen. Ahmad Suwaidani.  I was there and know that this happened for a fact.  I was in Jabal Webdeh in Amman when Dr. Habash arrived and was greeted by Nayef Qaddoura  and Dr. Wadi Haddad.  There was no escape – only a Syrian guard looking askance as Dr. Habash packed his suitcase and drove across the border unimpeded to the Jordanian capital.  I remember Dr. Habash lighting one Reem cigarette after another as he luxuriated in his office.  He was a great man. 

Now, back to Manaf, who is not a great man.  It is certain that the media in the West will try to make a silk purse out of this ordinary event.  They will try to get around the discomfiting fact that the “important” official was, in fact, under house arrest.  They will revel at his every utterance, sober or not. 

Can anyone believe this guy made general?   In this pose for United Artists, Manaf vies for the role of Che Guevara in the titanic bomb movie: “CHE!”.  (Joke)
So far he has said nothing.  He may, understandably, say very little.  He is not articulate.  But his family is now out of Syria with the exception of his youngest sister, Sarya, who remains in Damascus and is married to a Lebanese chiropractor.  How long Sarya will stay in Damascus is anyone’s guess. His older sister, Nahida, lives in Paris close to her father.  His brother, Firas, a wealthy businessman divides his time between Paris and Dubai.  And so, the Tlas dynasty of Al-Rastan now arrives at its concluding narrative which started in a nomadic history in the hills of Ottoman Georgia to the fertile plains of Syria and ended on the dissolute boulevards of Paris.  Yawn.  

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