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Dozens Defect From Syrian Army, But Impact Is Limited

The ranks of defectors from the Syrian army who streamed into southern Turkey recently included a brigadier general, two colonels and two majors. While these are dramatic developments, writes Rania Abouzeid, they may not have much of an effect on the larger battle since the rebel ranks suffer from fissures in their own structure. 
A photograph of Colonel Hassan Hamada, the Syrian air force pilot that defected to Jordan, hangs on the wall at his home near Idlib June 22, 2012. Hamada flew over the border to Jordan on Thursday, and was granted political asylum. Picture taken June 22, 2012. REUTERS/ABDO (SYRIA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS CONFLICT)

The ranks of the Syrian defectors who streamed into southern Turkey recently read like quite the roll call: a brigadier general, two colonels, two majors, a lieutenant, and dozens of soldiers, along with their families, according to press reports. Some 200 people in all, a logistical feat across an increasingly tense border between once friendly neighbors. The defections were announced shortly after the spectacular desertion of a Syrian fighter pilot who flew his Mig into Jordan, where he has been granted political asylum. Dramatic developments, to be sure, but how significant are they in terms of the larger battle between Syrian rebels and loyalists? What do these defections add up to? 

Not enough, it seems, to significantly weaken Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces or markedly shift the vastly asymmetrical battle in favor of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA). It was not a mass defection. The high-level defectors did not all break away from the same unit, or even from units operating in the same area, according to FSA deputy commander Colonel Malik al-Kurdi, who is based in the officers’ camp in Apaydin, about 12 miles from Antakya in southern Turkey.  

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