Will general's defection impact Syria regime?
(CBS News) PARIS - A top general has fled Syria. He was part of the inner circle of dictator Bashar al-Assad, who has been trying to crush a rebellion. On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the defection a promising development. She joined diplomats from 100 nations in Paris to raise the pressure on the Assad regime to stop the violence. At least 9,000 people have been killed.
Clinton blasted Russia and China for blocking U.N. sanctions against Syria: "I don't think Russia and China believe they are paying any price at all -- nothing at all -- for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime. The only way that will change is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear that Russia and China will pay a price."
CBS News State Department correspondent Margaret Brennan spoke with "Evening News" fill-in anchor Anthony Mason from Paris about these latest developments in the Syrian crisis. A transcript follows.
Mason: Margaret, the Russians and Chinese declined to even attend the Syrian meeting in Paris, so are Secretary Clinton's words likely to have any impact?
Brennan: That's a big question. We may not get an answer until New York, because that will be the next front in this financial war essentially that Secretary Clinton asked to be waged against Syria. So the next push will be at the U.N. for the Security Council to come forward with a resolution as soon as next week to freeze assets [of] members of the regime, to embargo oil. The question as you said it is whether Russia will not only support that but abide by it, given that they have overlooked those efforts up to this point.
Mason: How significant is the defection of this Syrian general? How big a blow to the Assad regime is this?
Brennan: It potentially could have major ramifications because Brigadier General Tlass is not only the highest-ranking command officer to defect -- he is also a long time childhood friend of President Bashar al-Assad. In fact, their two families have a shared history. Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father [and] longtime president of that country, was served as defense minister by Tlass's own father. So essentially this brigadier general's dad helped keep the Assad family in control of Syria for decades.
This defection is not only symbolic, it could have ramifications to perhaps cause others to defect as well. Secretary Clinton said herself that they are seeing more and more military members vote with their feet, as she put it, moving towards the right side of history.
- Margaret Brennan
Principally assigned to the State Department, Margaret Brennan also serves as a CBS News general assignment correspondent based in Washington, D.C.
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