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Monday, February 19, 2018

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Syrian army

Of the Syrian government forces for only one week demonstrated to all and a brilliant operation in Aleppo, and the shameful flight from Palmyra. You need to understand that the country’s army is heterogeneous and poorly controlled, which is one of the main problems coupled with the weakness of command and corruption. And very soon this problem can be fatal.

Before the war the Syrian army was considered the strongest of the Arab in the region, although the last time was against an equivalent enemy in the distant 1984, in Lebanon. In this half-century of confrontation with Israel have identified imbalances in its structure, organization, and weaponry. Exaggerated attention to air defense, a huge number of anti-tank weapons (they were supplied to Syria mainly from Russia until the transition of the civil war in the acute phase), the formation of large tank units – all this is a consequence of a local arms race with the echoes of Lebanon and the Golan heights. At the same time, growing social unrest and local uprisings in the 80-90-ies created numerous paramilitary groups that are now transformed into the most capable and motivated part.

Infantry no longer Queen

“Not every division commander before the shelling comes to mind is to read the opponent through a loudspeaker, their own poems”

With the transition to civil unrest in the civil war, the Syrian army began to rapidly deteriorate. Mass desertions from combat units was associated with looting of property and theft of equipment. Some officers (mostly Sunnis, but also Turkmens, Turkomans and Kurds) eventually formed the “free officers Movement” and the “Free Syrian army”. The latter is considered the main opponent of the government from among the so-called moderate, and at an early stage of formation was supported by the CIA and a number of European countries.

Initially, the “Movement of free officers” led by Colonel corps of engineers Hussein Harmoush, deserted even in the summer of 2011. At the Military Academy named after Asad, he studied Russian language, then was sent for training to Russia where has received a speciality “the military engineer”, and then later as a Lieutenant Colonel of the 11 th division was sent for training at the Academy of national security. Studies in Russia and preparing to work in the structure of Syrian intelligence spoke of him as a promising military with good career growth. However, he fled to Turkey, where he began to put together from deserters the first “secular” armed group (practitioners, however, terrorist methods). After a few months he was stolen from the territory of Turkey, the Syrian intelligence services and in January 2012 was executed for treason, desertion and terrorism.

The collapse of the army led to the fact that we can’t talk about the actual staffing of the parts listed for the Ministry of defence, is not necessary. Almost impossible to install and its technical capacity – during the war, some units of equipment several times passed from hand to hand. The volume of foreign supplies count also is not amenable. But for the government troops now is important, not the numbers or staffing. At least, the psychological condition and quality of combat training of composition is much more important.

Who is friends with whom and the war in Syria and Iraq Last year and a half conspicuous “fire” the use of several large units with high-sounding titles that moved throughout the country, or plugging holes in the defense, or participating (sometimes alone) in the key offensive operations. And despite the fact that formally, most of them passes through the MOD, in fact it is polutorapolnye or even “private” units. The “old” divisions and brigades remained only on paper or are in much reduced and demoralized condition. Even the bulk of the infantry to withstand a greater part of the rough military work, now formed a division, not formally associated with the MO – from the Republican guard. In addition it is possible to list literally on the fingers of the old “numbered” parts, which to the present moment and kept fighting capacity of the number or even increased their training. In fact, they are composed of veterans of the civil war and highly motivated volunteers, dominated by ethnic and religious minorities.

The Sunni part is almost totally kept in the volunteer units, also highly motivated, but enjoys some autonomy. The mass conscript army not motivated at all, extremely poorly trained, has no idea of modern tactics, and prone to panic. Its use even in the rear garrisons leads to tragic results like the recent events in Palmyra.

The Republican guard and 4th armored division

The Republican guard was formed by Hafez al-Assad in the mid 70-ies to fight against Palestinian groups and the protection of the ruling family. Officer positions it could occupy only the relatives of the ruling family or the person has proven loyalty to the government. In the structure of the Republican guard were the brothers Basil, Maher and Bashar al-Assad, and its first commander was Adnan Makhlouf – a cousin of the wife of Hafez. In 1995 because of the conflict with Bashar al-he was removed from office, and appointed in his place, Allawi Ali Mahmoud Hassan. The data series, the Republican guard for his loyalty gets a portion of the revenue from oil production in the province of Deir ez-Zor.

The structure of the WG like normal infantry division trehryadka composition with the addition of special forces and tank battalion “Lions of the desert”. In 2016, the efforts of Russian military advisers in its composition was created a regiment of Marines, which had participated actively in the fighting in Latakia province. The main difference WG from the other parts – it almost monoreligioznoe composition (alawites) and the advantage of new equipment and weapons. As you might guess, it is from it (as well as “Tigers” and the 4th Panzer division) working closely to the Russian advisers.

The Russian had sent from scratch to train Syrian “elite” part of the modern tactics along the way, adapting them to the terrain. The Syrians had no idea, for example, what assault team (like battalion and company commander). All of their tactical training is stopped at the time of the Arab-Israeli wars with their “waves” of infantry with support of tanks. The interaction even between the parts neighboring on the narrow sections of the front was weakened by disunity of command or local ambitions. Perhaps the ignorance of the modern weapons in this series – the most a nuisance.

Second, the level of training and combat readiness of the units of the Syrian army – 4th armored division, also grew out of the paramilitary “defence Force” (“Saraya ad-DIFA”). She is commanded by Maher Assad, the younger brother of the President, the owner of a controversial reputation, and the complex nature of governing his own family clan. Up to 90% of the soldiers of a brigade numbering from 12 to 25 thousand people (according to various estimates) – professionals, and 80% of payroll – the alawites. Same as RG, structurally, it resembles the familiar armored division trehryadka composition with the addition of artillery and special forces units. In the most dangerous times of the civil war some officers of the 4th division were appointed in the Sunni part to stop the decay and desertion. During the war she managed to visit almost all the major fronts, but some of its parts on a regular basis are serving in Damascus and the surrounding area, acting as a “Praetorian guard”.

“Tigers” and “Hawks”

A separate story – the well-known “Tigers” and “desert Hawks”. This semi-private, polutorapolnye part of the high readiness, motivation and training, specializing in offensive operations.

“Desert hawks” (or “Falcons”) – a typical PMC, by force of circumstances turned into a division of the regular army. In 2013 a retired army General Mohammed Jaber received through connections in the government concessions for oil development, it has formed from the former military and veterans of the conflicts to carry protection in the province of HOMS. So initially, the Hawks just kept belonging to the General Jaber oil installations, including deep in the desert on the border with Jordan. When the fighters began to seriously threaten his business, Jaber with his “hawk” joined the government army. This PMC proved to be very successful division taking part in the storming of several key settlements and mountain peaks in the province of Latakia, in the liberation of the Armenian Kessab and al-Qaryatayn. They were at the first line in the liberation of Palmyra. But then began an unprepared attack on Raqqa and the left front, which almost led to catastrophic consequences.

This is the main problem of the use of PMCs as a percussion instrument. No one could say what motivated a particular point in time, their real owner. Yes, veteran part well trained, but from the point of view of tactics it would be nice if they continued to study on the go. Overall, the Hawks showed themselves, of course, good, but their officers have not shown the propensity to adopt new tactics.

The story is somewhat different – wide well-known division of the “Tigers” under the command of General Suhail al-Hassan. The beginning of the civil war he was a Colonel all his life having served in the air force and air defense, including in the so-called section for special operations. It is a new generation of the Syrian military, who distinguished themselves during the civil war. People from the initiative of the officers themselves who took over command of the parts or forming them from scratch, with the most charismatic and determined one of them possessing extraordinary character and a bit of theatrical behavior. Not every division commander before the shelling comes to mind is to read through a loudspeaker, their own poems and send them to the enemy.

“Tigers” (or rather “the Power of the tiger”, “al-Quat al-Nimr”) consists of three “teams” – “cheetahs”. The team collected 6 veterans who participated in unblocking of the military airport of Quares from Aleppo. Only one al-Hassan know why he refuses to increase the strength of the brigade, which never exceeds 1000 people. According to some, during the battle for Aleppo Eastern division required the ammunition for 800 people, that is, in fact, is a special forces battalion with a beautiful Oriental name. The loss the Tigers are perceived very painfully, and this leads to the fact that they can participate on a very limited scale offensive operations and only with the support of the infantry of the Republican guard or allies of the Palestinians, Hizbullah or the Iranians.

On the other hand, the Tigers are addicted to artillery preparation and with such numbers, they just have no other choice but to provide cover in attack. They also showed the ability to learn quickly various tactical innovations, which are quite skillfully apply depending on the location and nature of the fighting. So, in HOMS province, they are “withdrawn” assault groups on the front lines of the enemy, burned it, and then quickly retreated without loss. Terrorizing the enemy so the Tigers not only knocked his offensive outbursts, but also forced the jihadists to free a previously appointed positions.

What made the army of Syria with the help of Russian troops (infographic)al-Hassan quickly found a common language with the Russian military advisers, but retains a high degree of autonomy from the General staff in Damascus. Primarily, this is determined by the independence of supply, and this is the General problem of the Syrian army. Some very large and efficient units live either “left” or funded by local communities and individuals. Sad, but a General system of supplying the army extremely corrupt, which has become one of the causes of mass desertion in the civil war. It’s a real time bomb under the whole system of defense of Syria.

Another bomb – the principle of specification. Some parts are completed on the premises, and the personnel of difficult to persuade to move from their native province to another sector of the front. The majority of small settlements in the border areas in General, local defense militia are not motivated to go outside the village. The same applies to parts formed on a mono-ethnic or a religious basis. The most famous example is the Kurds, who even during the battle for Aleppo outside of his quarters did not go out, than I stopped. Alawite guard opposite example. For them, the outcome of the civil war is a matter of physical survival, because they are willing to move across the country, plugging holes.

The weakness of command

The increase of combat capability of the Syrian army over the past half year was achieved solely by the above units. Some other “list” part, even with all of their organization sometimes show unthinkable tactical weakness and prone to demoralization. Events in Palmyra direct proof. 11th Panzer division simply collapsed. The lack of intelligence and tactical training was compounded by banal cowardice and weakness of command. Defense against Jihad-mobile simply have not been exhibited, but the tactics of their occurrence is monotonous and banal. Fear of the bombers completed the rout.

“Direct counts of treason, as it was in 2011-2014, in the last years is not observed, and the reasons are ridiculous defeats lie in weak discipline – both tactical and everyday”

By the way, there is evidence that the flight from Palmyra is headed by some of the generals of the General staff. Direct cases of treason, as it was in 2011-2014, in the last years is not observed, and the reasons are ridiculous defeats lie in weak discipline – both tactical and domestic. The high command in principle was one of the weak links of the government troops.

First, to be retrained in new tactics, and strategic planning to these people later – in this regard, the brigade and divisional commanders were much more flexible. But their mastery of new tactics in the attack took about a year.

Secondly, after the terrorist attack in July 2012 that killed a high-ranking Syrian generals, including defense Minister Daoud of Rajiha (by the way, an Orthodox Christian), the vacant posts have been less prepared and experienced officers that quickly affected the level of command and planning; the same applies to security and intelligence.

Thirdly, the planning of operations until recently were conducted very slowly, and the choice of strategic objectives depended not only on military necessity, but rather by the political situation. Unfortunate and the unprepared attack on Raqqa was the result of political decisions, and the constant battering from the fronts in search of strategic direction frankly delayed fighting for several months. Russian HQs have long been used to maintain the offensive activity on secondary lines or as a strengthening of defense. Impact of chronic imbalance in weaponry – the army didn’t have enough number of ACS and RZSO that slowed down the transfer of artillery not only for the organization of a breakthrough, but to strengthen the defense.

Fourth, the existence of several groups does not allow the General staff to generate a single long-term plan for the liberation of the country.

With hope for reform

Most of the weaknesses of the Syrian army is, apparently, subjective. As, however, in the case of its allies. Their stupidity (especially Hezbollah and the Iranians) have led to the failure of some tactical operations. Not that they were wrong – they could just get lost in time, have lunch or prayer, absent in pre-agreed time in the agreed place. At first, Hizbullah played a very important role on several fronts, but with the growing number of losses, their motivation dropped – with the exception of those regions where they contact with a friendly Shiite population. However, in recent years underline the religious component was an impact on the actions of the Shiite parts rather negative. And in jihadist propaganda curses against the Shia have made no dogmatic religious and racist.

Limited in its application and other allied parts, for example, a Palestinian militia, regardless of their religious affiliation. “Liwaa al-Quds” was well motivated as long as it is not safe from jihadists places of their own residence. Now the Palestinians was only one fundamental enemy – the “Noureddine al-Zinki”, and they begin to lose interest in fighting. Raznoplanovost and diversity of units is in principle a difficult problem of management, which is still not solved.

On the other hand, the isolation of the several large units as the backbone, the backbone of the army can be attributed to positive trends. They are, of course, is not enough on all fronts, making it difficult to conduct planned combat operations, but this background is being formed at the call of a brand new numbered parts. Rapid military successes they are quite organized and re-motivated.

There is reason to believe that in the near future can begin a reform of the army “on the move”, which resulted in the battle schedule will be optimized. As quickly equalize all personnel of the militia in the arming and training will fail, likely within the army will be determined by a kind of gradation of units according to the degree of their training and the “elite”. Now it is possible to achieve numerical advantage over the jihadists in some parts of the front, but the fight for Idlib will require a very different effort.

There is evidence that began the development of possible action plans and in the North, and in the participating Russian and Iranian officers, which was not the case. The General staff in Damascus is willing to learn and listen to advice that can already be considered a great achievement. Another thing to assess the distribution of forces released after the liberation of Aleppo and how long will be prepared for new operations. Still, the problem of control remains for the Syrian army, the main.


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