News / Middle East

Syrian Army is Capable Military Force, Say Experts

An injured Syrian army soldier (L) walks with his comrades after a roadside bomb hit their military truck, Daraa city, southern Syria, May 9, 2012. An injured Syrian army soldier (L) walks with his comrades after a roadside bomb hit their military truck, Daraa city, southern Syria, May 9, 2012.
x
An injured Syrian army soldier (L) walks with his comrades after a roadside bomb hit their military truck, Daraa city, southern Syria, May 9, 2012.
An injured Syrian army soldier (L) walks with his comrades after a roadside bomb hit their military truck, Daraa city, southern Syria, May 9, 2012.
Fighting between heavily armed Syrian government troops and lightly-equipped opposition forces continues as diplomatic efforts seem to make little headway.

Experts said President Bashar al-Assad’s army - estimated at between 200,000 and 250,000 troops - is by regional standards a highly-capable military force.

"When you compare it to neighboring states such as Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, it is one of the largest forces," said Aram Nerguizian, a Syria expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It does have pockets of excellence."  

Nerguizian points out "You have units like the Republican Guard and units that Maher al-Assad [President Assad's brother] controls that are markedly more effective, and there are essentially elite units and very loyal to Assad, capable in urban fighting."

But John Pike, head of an Internet research firm Globalsecurity.com, said there are limits to the army’s political reliability "because of the sectarian division between the Alawite officers and the Sunni soldiers."

Outside military help

Syrian Air and Naval Forces

  • 70,000 Air Force personnel
  • 5,000 Navy personnel
  • 300 fighter-ground attack planes
  • 48 intelligence/surveillance planes
  • 22 heavy transport planes
  • 36 attack helicopters
  • 100 reconnaissance/transport helicopters
For decades, first the Soviet Union and now Russia delivered weapons to the Syrian army. These included thousands of tanks, helicopters, heavy artillery, ammunition and armored personnel carriers.

Pieter Wezeman, an arms transfer expert with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said other countries have been mentioned as possible arms suppliers to Syria, such as Iran.

"Another country which has been mentioned in some reports is North Korea'" added Wezeman, though he said it is hard to estimate the volume and number of weapons provided by Pyongyang.

Rebels lightly armed

Experts said facing a well-equipped Syrian army are insurgents armed with light weapons.

John Pike said those include assault rifles, machine guns, and rocket-propelled anti-tank rockets. "What they do not have is helicopters and tanks," said Pike. "And that is basically what the Syrian government is relying on to suppress this insurrection, is this military imbalance that the rebels have light weapons and the government has heavy weapons."

Pieter Wezeman said much of the weaponry used by the insurgents has either been captured from depots or taken from soldiers of the Syrian army who have deserted.

"There are also clear indications that the rebels have procured arms on the black market in, for example, Lebanon," said Wezeman. "And then of course there are the rumors that countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also involved in supplying them arms - or at last the funds to procure arms." But Wezeman pointed out "it is very unclear what is true about these rumors and what is not."

Experts said it is difficult to predict how long the fighting in Syria will last - it has been going on for more than a year. A cease-fire that is part of a peace plan offered by joint U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has failed to take hold.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Kuyana from: Kenia
June 21, 2012 7:35 AM
I THINK THE RUSSIANS AND CHINESE SHOULD STICK WITH ASSAD.THOSE WESTERNERS ARMING THE REBELS ARE ONLY INTERESTED IN PUSHING THEIR OWN AGENDA. IT'S TIME SOME ONE STOPPED OBAMA'S ADVENTURES IN THE ARAB WORLD--OR IS HE top "god" in the MOSLEM SPIRITUAL WORLD?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid