The ever more isolated and embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad now risks losing his brother Maher al-Assad, who is the commander of the Republican Guard and the army's elite Fourth Armored Division, according to Western sources confirming recent rumors on Arab media.
Maher was critically wounded in a July 18 Damascus bombing attack in which Assad's brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, and Defense Minister Daud Rahja were killed. He lost one or both legs, depending on the source, and is now dying. Defections are also ongoing, with former officers and members of Assad's inner circle appealing to the military to ''join the revolution.'' The most recent deserter is Colonel Yarub al-Shara, cousin to Vice President Faruq al-Shara and former head of the Damascus branch of Political Security, an intelligence organization. Following is an overview of the main defections since the beginning of the Syrian uprising.
MARCHI 2011: 10s of 1000s of soldiers desert and join the rebels, according to the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights.
APRIL: Two independent MPs resign; they are followed in January 2012 by Iamd Ghalioune, MP and Budget Committee member, who flees to Egypt.
JUNE: Colonel Hassan Merhi al-Hamadé flees to Jordan on board his MiG jet.
JULY: Colonel Riad al-Assad, who deserted and fled to Turkey, announces the formation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA); 27 Syrian generals and hundreds of other officers and soldiers desert and join the FSA in Turkey.
MARCH 2012: Oil Deputy Minister Abdo Houssameddine, resigns and denounces the ''brutality'' of Assad's regime. He is the first cabinet member to join the opposition. JULY 5: Republican Guard General Manaf Tlass, an Assad family friend, deserts; he surfaces in Paris on July 17.
JULY 11: Syrian ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, is the first diplomat to defect. He flees to Qatar.
JULY 24: Syrian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Abdel Latif al-Dabbagh and his wife Lamia Hariri, who is the commercial attache, defect. The following day, the chief of security at Syria's embassy in Oman, Mohammad Tanshine al-Faquir, defects.
AUGUST 6: Arab media report that Prime Minister Riad Hijab, who denounces an ongoing genocide in his country and accuses Assad of being ''an enemy of God.'' Astronaut Mohammad Ahmad Faris, first Syrian in space, defects on the same day. Two days earlier, Colonel Yarub al-Shara deserts. Today the former intelligence chief exhorted the military to desert on al-Arabiya TV.
AUGUST 16: A Western diplomat reveals that Maher al-Assad lost ''one leg'' in the July 18 bombing attack, and is ''near death.'' This confirms rumors on Arab media. Maher has not been seen in public since mid-July.