There have been many tipping points in the Syrian revolution, and this morning we were provided with another. The newly appointed Prime Minister, Riyad Hijab, once considered a staunch Baath party loyalist, announced his defection to the opposition. He had only been in the post for two months.
Working at the heart of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, Hijab is the most senior official to have defected. There are unconfirmed reports that a further three ministers are trying to defect, but are being stopped by the intelligence services. Activists from the beleaguered city of Homs have said that the Finance Minister, Mohamed Jalilati, was arrested as he tried to leave the country, although state TV has denied the claims. All this comes amidst growing unrest among Syrian diplomats and parliamentarians.
The number of defections, particularly of those in influential positions, has accelerated in recent weeks. Hijab’s departure now suggests the rot has spread to the heart of the administration.