Russia 'considering' Syrian military overhaul with defected general, Manaf Tlass, as head

Russia 'considering' Syrian military overhaul with defected general, Manaf Tlass, as head
A Joint Military Council has been proposed to Russia by opposition figures, while a Syrian journalist and political scientist has suggested Manaf Tlass as the council's leader.
3 min read
10 February, 2021
Manaf Tlass defected from the regime army in 2012. [Twitter]
A new proposal has been submitted to Russia by factions within the Syrian opposition calling for the establishment of a Joint Military Council along with a new push for peace, according to Russian media.

The new military formation could be headed by defected general Manaf Tlass, son of late Defence Minister Mustafa Tlass, one opposition writer suggested.

The new council would oversee the withdrawal of foreign troops, the unification of Syria and its armed forces, while Russia would be the only foreign power permitted to keep troops in the country. 

The first part of the council would be represented by retired generals who served under former President Hafez Al-Assad and the second group would include current officers.

The final part would be represented by officers who defected from the regime but who did join the armed opposition.

The overarching goal of the council would be to implement Security Council Resolution 2254.

This would include restructuring the military, combatting terrorism, dismantling all armed groups, restoring the authority of the state across Syria, naming an interim government, and calling for an internal national dialogue. 

Additionally, the council would oversee the drafting of a new constitution, securing the release of detainees and the return of refugees, and arranging international contracts for reconstruction. 

Many of the proposed goals of the military council overlap with the aims of the Constitutional Committee, which has been bogged down by indecision and disagreements since its formation but failed to make any solid progress.

The proposals from the Moscow and Cairo platforms of the opposition - which are seen as less hostile to the Assad regime - were mirrored in an article written by opposition journalist and political scientist Yasir Badawi, published by Russia's Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Sunday.

In the article, Badawi suggests General Manaf Tlass as a possible figure who could lead the new Joint Military Council. 

"It is believed that it is he who can end the bloodshed and stop the fake electoral process, which Bashar Al-Assad and his entourage are launching over and over again," he writes.

"He has the ability to negotiate with various international forces, taking into account the specifics of their interests in Syria. And he is a former representative of the army circles and knows how to interact constructively with the defence department. Moreover, he did not participate in any processes against the people and distanced himself from the opposition." 

Read more: Syria Insight: Russia's intervention five years on (Part 1)

Prior to his defection from the regime in 2012, Tlass was a brigade commander in Assad's elite Republican Guard. 

The publication of Badawi's article by the Russian news outlet has been viewed as an indication that Russia could considering this proposal. 

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