Here is why the Manaf Tlas defection matters: Hafiz al-Asad, father of Bashar al-Asad, and Mustafa Tlas, father of Manaf, met at the Syrian Military Academy in Homs in the early 1950s and became lifelong friends. During the 1958-61 United Arab Republic, when Egypt and Syria were united, the two men were stationed together in Egypt. When the UAR collapsed, the Nasser regime arrested Asad; Tlas accompanied Asad's family safely back to Syria. Asad showed his gratitude for the rest of his career; Tlas served as his longtime Defense Minister, despite a penchant for embarrassing comments to the press. Bashar al-Asad has known Tlas' sons Firas and Manaf all his life. The father, Mustafa Tlas, now 80, is believed to be outside the country; some say he is undergoing medical treatment in Paris. There are reports that Firas, who is a businessman, is also outside the country. But Manaf was a serving military officer, a general. Now he is in Turkey, a defection, confirmed after a day of rumors, that hits quite close to the Asad family. The elder Tlas, along with former Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam, was one of the two visible high-level Sunnis in the largely Alawite regime of Hafiz al-Asad; Khaddam had left the country and broken with Bashar even before the uprising. Now the family that symbolized the presence of Sunnis in the Asad regime has broken with the Asads.
"Michael Collins Dunn is the editor of The Middle East Journal. He also blogs. His latest posting summarizes a lot of material on the Iranian election and offers some sensible interpretation. If you are really interested in the Middle East, you should check him out regularly." — Gary Sick, Gary's Choices
"Since we’re not covering the Tunisian elections particularly well, and neither does Tunisian media, I’ll just point you over here. It’s a great post by MEI editor Michael Collins Dunn, who . . . clearly knows the country pretty well." — alle, Maghreb Politics Review
"I’ve followed Michael Collins Dunn over at the Middle East Institute’s blog since its beginning in January this year. Overall, it is one of the best blogs on Middle Eastern affairs. It is a selection of educated and manifestly knowledgeable ruminations of various aspects of Middle Eastern politics and international relations in the broadest sense." — davidroberts at The Gulf Blog
"Michael Collins Dunn, editor of the prestigious Middle East Journal, wrote an interesting 'Backgrounder' on the Berriane violence at his Middle East Institute Editor’s Blog. It is a strong piece, but imperfect (as all things are) . . ." — kal, The Moor Next Door This great video of Nasser posted on Michael Collins Dunn’s blog (which is one of my favorites incidentally) ... — Qifa Nabki