Three-fourths of the Syrian army is “confined to barracks” and two out of every three of Assad’s army reservists are not responding to orders to serve, says Michael Weiss. On paper, the Syrian army numbers 550,000. In reality, the Assad regime can only count on—at maximum—300,000.
Weiss argues that, when you put all these numbers together, “credible accounts estimate the total number of Syrian ground troops to be no higher than 100,000.” He lists various other problems facing Assad’s forces: They are exhausted, overstretched, have outdated weapons, and suffer from “rampant mismanagement in the command structure.”
This means that the Assad regime could potentially be defeated by the Free Syria army. If his army believes the opposition will win and are given an opportunity to defect, they will do it. Weiss argues that the West should help create a Benghazi-like safe zone in Idlib Province near Turkey, with a headquarters in Jisr al-Shughour.
Weiss notes that this area has mountains that can serve as barriers and would allow the rebels to seize the M1 highway, cutting off the most important route for the regime.
I don’t often do this but I must urge readers to read a superb commentary by Jonathan Freeland, an opponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“For it is blinded by Iraq. The left was right to oppose that war: I opposed it too. But not all of the world’s troubles, whether in Tehran or Homs, are reruns of 2003. We have new problems now. Fail to see that and we make the people of Homs pay the price for the mistake we made in Baghdad,” he writes.