Last Updated: Sun Feb 05, 2012 18:09 pm (KSA) 15:09 pm (GMT)

Syria’s most senior defector predicts Assad’s army collapse

General Mustafa al-Sheikh said the Syrian army could soon meet a dead-end in its violent crackdown on dissent. (Reuters)
General Mustafa al-Sheikh said the Syrian army could soon meet a dead-end in its violent crackdown on dissent. (Reuters)

The most senior Syrian army defector has said that Bashar al-Assad’s army is close to collapse this month.

“The army will collapse during February,” General Mustafa al-Sheikh told The Telegraph in his first full-length newspaper interview.

“The reasons are the shortage of Syrian army personnel, which even before March 15 last year did not exceed 65 percent. The proportion of equipment that was combat ready did not exceed that, due to a shortage of spare parts.” General Sheikh added.

“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.”

General Sheikh also said the crisis threatens to disturb the rest of the Arab world.

“The situation is now very dangerous and threatens to explode across the whole region, like a nuclear reaction,” he said.

General Sheikh fled the army after 37 years of service when the Assad regime’s crackdown on anti-government turned violent, now resulting in the death of more than 6,000 people since protests began in mid-March.

He said what pushed him to leave had been a sexual assault incident, in which soldiers took turns to attack a young bride at a village near the town of Hama.

He believes the army has become a “crazy killing machine,” and that without a solution within a fortnight, “the whole region will flare up,” the Telegraph reported.

“There is no time,” he said. “There is a serious acceleration under way due to the collapse of the army and the security system.

“We want very urgent intervention, outside of the security council due to the Russian veto. We want a coalition similar to what happened in Kosovo and the Ivory Coast.”

(Written by Eman El-Shenawi)

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