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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid