In a scathing analytical piece published yesterday, a Russian military expert has written that he believes that the Syrian regime lacks the morale and expertise to defeat the armed opposition to President Bashar Al-Assad’s rule.
Writing for the popular Russian language media outlet, Gazeta.ru, retired Colonel Mikhail Khodarenok blasted the Syrian armed forces for shirking their combat duties in order to extort and extract “bribes at checkpoints”.
“The actual fighting against opposition groups is mostly done by Syrian militias, the Lebanese Hezbollah Shia units [and] Iranian and Iraqi volunteers”, Khodarenok said, adding that the Assad regime still does not control “a majority of [Syrian] towns and villages”.
The Russian military expert criticised the Syrian military’s general staff for lacking any “coherent” short to mid-term strategic plan, and for not planning large scale military operations designed to decisively defeat the rebels.
According to Khodarenok, the Syrian military command’s reticence to conduct large operations may stem from the fact that they consider the opposition to possess “high combat capabilities” whilst the Syrian armed forces were paralysed by a “fear of heavy losses and a negative outcome to the fighting.”
“The general morale deterioration is exacerbated by the fact that the history of the modern Syrian army has known no military victories”, Khodarenok said in his withering article.
The independent Moscow-based Conflict Intelligence Team, an investigative Russian non-profit organisation largely critical of the Kremlin, cited a serving Russian colonel as saying that Khodarenok’s article was accurate: “Everything is like it’s written but worse”.
Assad hopes to win the war by winning Aleppo
Khodarenok’s critique of the Assad regime’s military forces comes in the wake of summer offensives by the Syrian opposition that have seen them score significant victories despite receiving significant military support from both Iran and Russia.
Although the victory has been blunted in recent days, a coalition of armed opposition factions managed to relieve the siege imposed by the regime on rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo early last month.
However, last Thursday, and after significant reinforcements from various Iran-backed militiagroups and Russian airpower, Damascus managed to successfully retake the district of Ramousa in southern Aleppo, further strengthening their attempts to besiege the beleaguered city once more.
Al-Assad hopes to douse the opposition’s morale and dash their hopes by not only besieging Aleppo, but wresting it from rebel control entirely.
However, Khodarenok believes that, even if the Syrian opposition were to lose Aleppo completely, the Assad regime will be no closer to winning the war.
Referring to the Soviet Red Army’s conquest of Berlin and the raising of the Soviet Union flag over the German parliament in 1945, Khodarenok commented about Al-Assad capturing Aleppo: “There is no equivalent of the Reichstag example, where the raising of the red flag meant the unconditional surrender of the enemy”.
Russia militarily intervened on the side of Al-Assad last year, establishing and expanding its military presence in Syria. Prior to that, Damascus was militarily supported by Iran and numerous Shia militias from Iraq, as well as the powerful Shia Lebanese Hezbollah.