At a meeting of the "Friends of Syria" in Paris, French François Hollande and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered some of the strongest threats so far against Syria and the nations that are supporting its dictator. Hollande himself told the group that "Bashar al-Assad must go" and that pressure must be put on the rest of the U.N. Security Council to bring peace to the region.
The focus of the group also seems to have shifted toward Russia and China, the two nations have consistently stood in the way of a true peace deal. There veto power over the Security Council has prevented any resolutions that might lead to Assad removal from power, or serious economic sanctions that could cripple his regime. Clinton angrily told the group that China and Russia "Russia and China will pay a price because they are holding up progress ... and that is no longer tolerable." Although it remains unclear how those two nations — who both consider Syria to be an ally and partner — can be brought into the fold.
The meeting took place amid the news that General Manaf Tlass, who is described as a close friend and confidant of Assad, had defected and was on his way to France. If true (and it apparently is) it would be by far the highest profile defection from the Assad regime and the long-awaited "crack" in his inner circle. Tlass' association with the Assad family goes back to their fathers. Mustafa Tlass was a long-time defense minister for Hafez al-Assad.