The United States has no policy towards Syria, and it shows. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the awkward position of trying to make something out of nothing. Things are going from bad to worse in Syria, and all Mrs. Clinton finds to do is to make a statement that the departure from that country of Manaf Tlass is a positive step. “Regime insiders and the military establishment,” she burbles, “are starting to vote with their feet.”
In reality, the entire Tlass family embody everything that is harmful in Arab political culture. The one and only principle of such people is to do whatever advances them, and everyone else can go to the wall. Sunnis themselves, they have become rich and powerful by obsequious service to the ruling Alawite dictators, first Hafez Assad and then his son Bashar. The head of the family is Mustapha Tlass, and as Minister of Defense for 32 years, no less, he made sure to reward himself. A master of crude brutality, he boasted that he gave the orders that led to the killing of 241 U.S. marines in Beirut, and also to the beheading of 28 Israelis taken prisoner in the Yom Kippur war. He had a publishing company whose purpose was to market racist rubbish about Jews, putting his name to some of it. For the past year or so he has been in Paris.
In the usual manner of these careerists, Mustapha has made use of his offspring. Manaf was promoted a general in the regime’s elite forces, most of them Alawites now busily butchering Sunnis by the thousand. Another son, Firas, heads a company identified as MAS, which has a monopoly supplying the army with the weapons doing the butchering. They have left Syria but they are not voting with their feet, in Mrs. Clinton’s deluded phrase; they are calculating their next advance. All that can be expected of such odious opportunists is more of the same.