The British Daily Telegraph on Friday reported that U.S. officials are saying Bashar al-Assad’s closest supporters are secretly making plans to defect to the other side in case the Syrian dictator succumbs to attacks by the rebellion.
“We are seeing members of Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle make plans to leave,” the official said.
A Syrian activist group reported Friday that four senior officers announced that they are defecting and joining the ranks of the opposition. A British organization monitoring human rights in Syria also published a video of the four—two colonels and two lieutenant colonels—as they were declaring their the desertion.
Members of Assad’s inner circle have also begun transferring cash out of Syria.
On Thursday a Syrian air force colonel defected in his MiG 21 fighter jet to Jordan, saying he refused to carry out an attack on civilians in the city of Dera’a.
The Telegraph reports that the pilots of three other MiGs on the mission also considered defecting, but were worried about being turned away.
“It is obviously a significant moment when a guy takes a $25 million plane and flies it to another country,” Victoria Nuland, the state department spokesman, said in Thursday’s briefing.
Richard Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria who is no longer resident in the country, is in Istanbul in a bid to contact leaders in the country’s business community to join the opposition.
According to the Telegraph, Syrian opposition groups confirmed that they were trying to get the Americans to encourage more defections.
A senior opposition source said: “I know for sure there are some high-ranking officers who are waiting for the right chance to defect. We have names of people in the presidential palace. There are rumors that there is one who is really close to the president and we are expecting to see him out of the country soon.”