Inside Syria

Nawaf Fares: ‘The Syrian regime is dead’

One of Syria’s high-profile defectors explains what is really going on inside the corridors of power in Damascus.

He is one of the highest-profile defectors from the Syrian regime. Until a few days ago, Nawaf Fares was Bashar al-Assad’s ambassador in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital.

He has been a very prominent figure in Damascus for years. After a career with the police, he served as governor in several Syrian provinces. He held senior Baath party posts since the time of the late president Hafez al-Assad. And finally he was appointed ambassador to Baghdad in 2008, which made him the first Syrian envoy to Iraq for nearly three decades.

Fares, a Sunni who is said to have close ties to Syrian security, is the second senior diplomat to quit the embattled government since the beginning of the Syrian uprising. The first was Bassam Imadi, the Syrian ambassador to Sweden.

Western diplomats have hailed recent defections as a sign that the al-Assad government is slowly beginning to crumble from within.

So, why did Fares, once known as a confidant of the president, change sides? What is really going on inside the corridors of power in Damascus? And what does he make of the latest diplomatic moves as rival draft resolutions are exchanged at the UN – in the aftermath of yet another massacre which some say may have killed as many as 200 people?

Inside Syria, with presenter James Bays, speaks exclusively to Nawaf Fares, the former Syrian ambassador to Iraq.

“The regime and Bashar al-Assad himself gave us illusions about reforms. We are now convinced that this regime will never do anything for the sake of the people. Lies are going on, the head of the regime is lying, it’s mirage, it’s illusion, killings everywhere, destruction everywhere and oppression everywhere …. He [Bashar-al-Assad] carries the genes of a dictator. His father killed people 30 years ago. Those who deal with him know that he is a liar …

The Russian support, the Iranian support and the hesitation or the inability of the international community to protect the Syrian people are the main reasons why the regime is buying time and why the regime is staying for a longer period of time. But from inside, the regime is dead. Economically, socially, in all domains …

Reforms could have given some fruits if applied at the very beginning of the revolution. But after waves of blood it’s impossible for the Syrians to trust Bashar al-Assad again, to accept his existence in Syria even …. This regime is dead, it’s just a matter of time.”

Nawaf Fares, the former Syrian ambassador to Iraq


  • Western diplomats have hailed defections as a sign that the Syrian government is beginning to crumble from within
  • Last week the Revolutionary Guard commander, Brigadier General Manaf Tlass defected. He was a close confidant of President Assad and the son of a former defence minister
  • Bassam Imadi, the Syrian ambassador to Sweden, left the government in December. He is now a member of the opposition Syrian National Council
  • Among the many thousands of soldiers who have defected from the Syrian army, around 15 generals are said to have fled to Turkey 
  • A colonel in the Syrian air force also sought asylum in June, flying his MiG-21 fighter jet south across the border to a Jordanian air base