Mustafa Tlass Biography
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Mustafa Abdul Qadir Tlass
Born in: Al-Rastan
Famous as: Senior officer
political ideology: Political party - Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Syria Region of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath PartyWas a member of the original Ba'ath Party and it's Syrian Regional Branch until 1966
father: Abdul Qadir Tlass
children: Firas Tlass, Manaf Tlass
Mustafa Tlass is a Syrian army officer and politician who served as the Syria’s Minister of Defense from 1972 to 2004. Born in a Sunni Muslim family, he joined the military academy after completing his primary and secondary education from a local school,. While at the academy, he met Hafez al-Assad—who later on went on to become the President of Syria—and struck a lifelong friendship with him which helped in establishing him as a dominant military officer as well as a strong politician in later years. When Assad was arrested by the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser post the breakup of United Arab Republic, Tlass escaped to Syria and helped in escorting Assad’s family to a safe location. Later in life, as Assad rose to prominence in the Syrian government, he appointed Tlass to the Baath Military Committee, giving him the command of a small armed division. Both the friends held on together, proving their loyalties through numerous political struggles which prevailed in Syria over years. Eventually, when Assad became a self-proclaimed dictator of Syria, Tlass joined his government as the new Minister of Defense, a post he held for more than three decades. Tlass also emerged as an important patron of Syrian literature and published several books of his own which were internationally criticized for their alleged anti-Semitic materials. After Assad died and his son succeeded him as the leader of Syria, Tlass resigned from his position and moved away from the political scenario.
- Mustafa Tlass was born on May 11, 1932, in Rastan, near the city of Homs, to a prominent local Sunni Muslim family. His father, Abdul Qadir Tlass, made a living by selling ammunition to the Turkish garrisons during the Ottoman period.
- He obtained his primary and secondary education at his village. In 1947, he moved to Homs and joined the Baath Party at the age of 15. He was drawn towards its secular, pan-Arabist doctrine and served as a preacher of its cause.
- In 1952, he joined the Homs Military Academy where he met Hafez al-Assad, an air force pilot, and struck a lifelong friendship with him.
- Between 1958 and 1961, during the period of the United Arab Republic merger between Syria and Egypt, Mustafa Tlass and Hafez al-Assad, along with many other Syrian Baathist officers, were stationed in Cairo so as to keep them away from political disruptions in Damascus.
- As keen Pan Arab nationalists, both the men worked towards breaking up the union, which they saw as unfairly balanced in the favor of Egypt. When the United Arab Republic was dissolved in 1961, several Syrian officers, including Assad, were imprisoned while Tlass managed to rescue Assad’s family and flee to Syria.
- During the 1960s, Assad began to participate in anti-regime activities and rose to prominence in the Syrian government through the 1963 coup d'état, backed by the Baath party. Subsequently, he promoted Tlass to high-ranking military and party positions through his connections.
- In 1965, as the Baathist army commander of Homs, Tlass imprisoned his pro-government comrades.
- In 1966, another coup by an Alawite-dominated Baath faction contributed in strengthening Assad’s position in the Syrian government which in turn gave Tlass more powers.
- The Syrian government faced a defeat in the 1967 Six Day War and the following year, Assad appointed Mustafa Tlass as the new Chief-of-Staff in order to strengthen the military. In 1969, Tlass led a military mission to Beijing and secured weapons deals with the Chinese government.
- In 1970, Assad seized power and proclaimed himself the dictator of Syria. In 1972, Tlass was appointed as the country’s Minister of Defense, a post he held for more than three decades and became one of Assad’s most trusted loyalists.
- During his term as the Defense Minister, he was functional in suppressing all dissidents regardless of their religious or political affiliations.
- He was also a writer and in 1983, published ‘The Matzah of Zion’. In this book he stated that Jews practice the ancient custom of “blood libel” and use the blood of murdered non-Jews in religious rituals such as baking Matza bread.
- He also opened a publishing house in Damascus and was the first person to try to uncover pre-Baath Syria in an objective manner. His writings reflect anti-Semitism and belief in conspiracy theories.
- After the death of Assad in 2000, Tlass served as a member of a committee formed to oversee the transition period in which Assad’s son, Bashar, was appointed the next leader of Syria.
- At the beginning of the 2000s, he also served as Deputy Prime Minister in addition to his post as the Defense Minister. He was also a member of Baath Party's central committee, in addition to being the head of the party military bureau and chairman of the party military committee.
- In 2004, he was replaced by Hasan Turkmani as Syria’s Minister of Defense. The following year, he also quit the regional command. In 2005, he published his two-volume memoirs titled ‘Mirat Hayati’ (Reflections of my life).
- In 2011, he left Syria after the revolt against Assad began. He announced that he was going to France for medical treatment.
- In 1958, Mustafa Tlass married Lamia Al Jabiri, a member of the Aleppine aristocracy. The couple have four children: Nahid, Firas, Manaf, and Sarya.
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