Recent reports indicate that a member of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle -- Manaf Tlass, a brigadier general in the Republican Guard -- may have defected to Turkey.
Recent reports from The Guardian and the blog of Syrian analyst Joshua Landis cite the Syria Steps website (link in Arabic, English translation on the Landis post linked above) as having confirmation on his report from "a highly placed source in intelligence."
Mr. Landis notes in his analysis that Tlass is a very important member of the elite Sunnis within the Assad circle. He was quote "instrumental in smoothing the way for Bashar to assume power after the death of his father."
Mr. Tlass is one of the elite Sunni's in the Baathist regime, which is made up mostly by members of the Alawii sect. He is said to have tried to solve the uprisings taking place on the outskirts of Damascus by negotiating with opposition leaders. He was said to have been pushed aside by attempting to negotiate and trying to eliminate the opposition in those areas with brute force.
The Syria Steps website concludes its report by saying "the regime will be thrown back on its heels," if Tlass did indeed defect. Tlass being close friends with President Assad is arguably the most senior Sunni within the predominately Alawaii regime and his family has been close to the Assad family since Hafez came to power in a coup in 1970.
It is clear from both the Syria Steps report and Mr. Landis's analysis that if Mr. Tlass defected headway in forming an interim government between the present regime and the opposition (which is Kofi Annan's new plan to solve the crisis) have suffered a major setback -- since the Syrian regime will have lost such a high-ranking member who could have potentially made significant headway towards a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the ongoing conflict.