Can Syrian Defections Sway Diplomacy?

Al Jazeera has put together a stunning interactive infographic of high level defections from the Syrian regime.  Here’s a screen grab, but do click over for a better view.

The red dots you see are top officials who’ve defected; the gray dots are those still in government. According to the data, there’ve been a total of 41 high profile defections. Most of the top defectors have come from the military and security apparatus. With some exceptions, relatively few have come from the upper-tranches of the diplomatic core.

This is a stark contrast to Libya. Among the first and most visible defections from Muammar Gaddafi were from top diplomats in New York and Geneva. I have heard fencing-sitting diplomats at the United Nations admit they were swayed by this passionate and emotional plea by the the Libyan ambassador to the UN back in February 2011.  Here’s an account of that speech at the time:

Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations appealed to the Security Council today to “save” his nation from the violence unleashed on protesters by leader Muammar Qaddafi and to impose sanctions on the regime.

“Please UN, save Libya,” Ambassador Mohammed Shalgham said at a meeting of the Security Council. “I tell my brother Qaddafi, leave the Libyans alone.”

Shalgham, a former Libyan foreign minister, was embraced by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Deputy Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo and other diplomats following his speech. He hugged Libya’s Deputy Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, who denounced the regime earlier in the week and was crying as Shalgham’s speech ended.

Word of yet another high profile defection today will certainly embolden the opposition, but it does not seem to be moving the diplomacy at all.  Needless to say, we have not had a “Shalgam moment” and it does not seem like we are going to see something like this coming any time soon.