Tlas, Mustafa (Abu Firas; 1932–)
TLAS, MUSTAFA (Abu Firas; 1932–)
Syrian general, born in May 1932 at Rastan. In 1952, Mustafa Tlas started on a military career, joining the same unit as his later friend, Hafiz al-Asad. In December 1959, both were part of a group of officers attached to the Egyptian army, as part of the attempted integration of the United Arab Republic (UAR). They stayed in Egypt until September 1961, when the UAR was dissolved. The shunting aside of the Baʿthists by the Syrian government relegated them to subordinate positions. In April 1962, as members of a Baʿthist underground committee, they participated in the "free officers" rebellion, demanding the resumption of the alliance with Egypt. Arrested and imprisoned, they were freed on 8 March 1963, after the Baʿth Party took over the government in a coup d'état. Rejoining the Syrian army, Mustafa Tlas was assigned to the military tribunal of Homs. Between 1964 and 1966 he was in command of the Fifth Armored Division in this city. In February 1968, Tlas was promoted to general, and named army chief of staff and defense vice minister, the defense minister being Hafiz al-Asad. A member of the military committee of Baʿth, headed by Asad, Tlas supported the latter in his differences with the civil committee of the party. On 13 November 1970, he participated in the coup that put Asad in power. On 22 March 1971, when the latter had been elected president of the Republic, Tlas was named defense minister.
Tlas played a significant role in the rapprochement between Syria and Jordan. On 13 May 1972, with his Soviet counterpart, he signed an important accord for military cooperation between the Soviet Union and Syria. In January 1978, he was named lieutenant general, a rank that had not existed until then in the Syrian army. In November 1983, when Asad was ill, he was among those to whom the latter entrusted the government in the interim, and also preventing the president's brother Rifʿat al-Asad from trying to seize power. In September 1984, Tlas became vice prime minister, responsible for defense. Since the death of Hafiz al-Asad, Mustafa Tlas has remained one of the main supports of the Syrian regime, someone on whom the new president, Bashshar al-Asad, relies. On 7 March 2000, he was named vice prime minister and defense minister in the government of Muhammad Miro. In 1983 Tlas published a book called The Matzo of Zion, a work founded on the classic Christian "blood libel" against the Jews.