Aide: Syrian PM's break months in planning
BEIRUT – Syria's prime minister began planning his break from the regime two months ago when Bashar Assad offered him the post and an ultimatum: Take the job or die.
The full scope of Riad Hijab's carefully executed flight to the rebel side – described by an aide who escaped with him to Jordan – reverberated Monday through Syria's leadership. Hijab became the highest-ranking government official to defect, emboldening the opposition and raising fresh questions about the regime's ability to survive the civil war.
Although Assad has been hit by a string of embarrassing defections of military and political figures, they have yet to cause visible changes in the regime's abilities on the battlefield. The loss of high-profile government officials, however, suggests fissures are reaching deeper into the ruling system and could force Assad to retreat further behind a cadre of loyalists as fighting flares on several fronts.
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