Senior army defector says Syrian military near collapse
February 6, 2012 1 Comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The most senior defector from the ranks of the Syrian military has said in his first full-length media interview that the Syrian armed forces are too weak and demoralized to continue fighting after the end of this month. General Mustafa al-Sheikh served in the Syrian military for 37 years, before he made the decision last November to join several other senior Syrian defectors, who have crossed into Turkey, where they have been given refuge. General al-Sheikh told British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph that, if not handled properly, the imminent collapse of the regime of Bashar al-Assad will “explode across the whole region, like a nuclear reaction”. Commenting on the current condition of the Syrian military, he said that today it relies on only about 40 percent of its hardware and 32 percent of its human personnel. The remaining two thirds of its troops consist of mostly Sunni officers, who have either been arrested, have defected to the so-called Free Syrian Army, or not permitted to participate in combat, due to mistrust by the government. This situation has forced the Assad regime to rely primarily on members of its own Alawite minority for its military operations. Because of their small numbers and untrained members, the Alawites tend to operate more as a militia than an army, according General al-Sheikh. The dramatic reduction in the size of the Syrian army is preventing the Syrian government from asserting control over several towns in the country, and there are allegedly even suburbs of Damascus now being effectively controlled by anti-government forces. The Telegraph correctly notes, however, that, his detailed knowledge of the Syrian military aside, General al-Sheikh is far from a neutral observer. It also notes that his view is contested by most diplomats and analysts, who view the regime in Damascus as weakened yet resilient and able to “cling on to power for months, if not years”. Last November, another senior defector from the ranks of the Syrian military denied reports that defectors were using secret bases in Syria, close to the border with Turkey, to train anti-government militias in guerrilla warfare and sabotage. Colonel Riad al-Assad, who acts as head of Syria’s military defectors now serving in the Free Syrian Army, told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency that “news reports that I had crossed into Syria to command troops there are false. I am in Turkey at the moment, in a safe place”.