Former Syrian General Akil Hashem on the Uprising in Syria
A window, broken by a stray bullet from clashes between the
Syrian army and the rebels on Monday at a refugee camp named “Container City.” (Umit
Bektas / Courtesy Reuters)
As international observers land in Syria, the UN-brokered truce between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and the opposition remains tenuous. Daily reports of clashes spill out of the country daily. In total, the unrest has left more than 11,000 dead. For a military perspective, Foreign Affairs’ Jordan Hirsch spoke with former Syrian Brigadier General Akil Hashem about the overall state of the rebellion, the capabilities of the military and the opposition, and what it will take to oust Assad. Excerpts:
Over a year after the uprising in Syria began, what is the state of the revolution?
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is rapidly escalating its military campaign and will continue killing no matter what. But at the same time, the revolution will continue no matter what. This stalemate will not end unless the international community intervenes militarily.
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One of the main reasons given by Western powers for their reluctance to intervene in Syria is the power of Syria’s military and air defenses. As a former brigadier general, what is your assessment?
I cannot believe that the United States, Britain, and France, with all of their intelligence capabilities, do not realize that the Syrian military is weak, largely thanks to rampant corruption. It’s one thing to have equipment and weapons, but it’s another thing to have the leadership to deploy them. And the leadership of the Syrian military is particularly decrepit. It starts with junior officers who ask soldiers to buy them cigarettes and then refuse to pay them back and goes all the way up to division commanders who divert army matériel to build their castles, villas, and mansions, ordering soldiers to construct them without compensation.
What about matériel?