'Assad's army won't survive beyond February'

Former Syrian general tells 'Sunday Telegraph' that regime's troops demoralized, blames Iran for "straining region to limits."

February 5, 2012 13:51
1 minute read.
Syrian soldiers secure checkpoint in Homs

Syrian soldiers Homs 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Syrian President Bashar Assad's remaining forces are demoralized and will not survive beyond February, a former Syrian general who defected and took refuge in Turkey in November told The Sunday Telegraph.

General Mustafa al-Sheikh said  that because of "the shortage of Syrian army personnel," the Syrian regime will not be able to withstand increasing attacks from the armed opposition group, the Free Syria Army (FSA).

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"The Syrian army combat readiness I would put at 40 per cent for hardware and 32 per cent for personnel. They are sending in elements from the Shabiha (militia) and the Alawite sect to compensate, but this army is unable to continue more than a month. Some elements of the army are reaching out to the FSA to help them to defect," Sheikh told The Sunday Telegraph.

He said that he believes the Syrian army has become a "crazy killing machine" and that within two weeks time the whole region will flare up if no diplomatic solution to the conflict is reached.

""The region is strained to the limits because of the role of Iran," he said. "The Syrian regime has helped transform it into a base for Iranian conspiracies."

The Sunday Telegraph report emphasized that Sheikh is not an impartial observer and that he is currently negotiating with the FSA and opposition group the Syrian National Council about his future role in the fight against Assad.

Sheikh said that the Syrian opposition is hoping for a coalition effort "similar to what happened in Kosovo and the Ivory Coast," following Russia and China's veto of a UN Security Council resolution calling for Assad's ouster.

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