On August 6, Reuters announced that Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab defected to the opposition which has been seeking to remove President Assad from power for the last year and a half. This news marks the highest profile defections that the Assad regime has faced at a time when the persistence of the rebels has revealed that the government is weaker than they would like people to believe.
Syria's state television reported that the Prime Minister was fired, but an official sources in the Jordanian capital of Amman said that the government had dismissed Hijab only after he fled across the border.
A statement read in his name on Al-Jazeera said, "I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime, and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution... I announce that I am from today a soldier in this blessed revolution."
Although the Prime Minister was a member of the ruling Baath party, he was a Sunni Muslim as opposed to the Alawite sect which President Assad belongs to and have long dominated many aspects of the Syrian state. The same has been true of all the top-level government defectors.
"Defections are occurring in all components of the regime save its hard inner core, which for now has given no signs of fracturing," said Peter Harling at the International Crisis Group think-tank.
It is not difficult for one to figure out why there is a pattern amongst the top-level defectors thus far. Sunni Muslims are the majority sect in countries where Islam is the primary faith, except for Iran. This means that when they defect, they have places they can flee to where they will be welcome. The highest ranking and most powerful people in Syria belong to the Alawite sect.
This is a sect that borders on the non-existent outside of Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey, so it is unlikely that they will defect given that way the Alawites have dealt with the people of Syria and the reaction it has received from the international community. The Alawites have received every institutional advantage possible in Syria, despite not comprising a quarter of the population. This would make the only logical conclusion that it will take massive force by the rebels, or help from other nations, to remove the old regime, because the Alawites know what will be waiting for them when they no longer rule with an iron fist. Anyone hoping that Assad might release power without being imprisoned or killed is being naive at best.