J.Post/Are Assad’s military forces on the verge of collapse?هل جيش الأسد على شفير التفكك والسقوط

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Are Assad’s military forces on the verge of collapse?
By JPOST.COM STAFF/05/01/2015

The Syrian Army, faced with low morale, internal divisions and rapidly decreasing popularity, is facing its most serious challenges since the start of the four-year long Syrian Civil War that has claimed the lives of more 200,000 people.

Multiple rebel offenses have seen strategically important cities fall under the auspices of rebel control, such as Idlib and Jisr al-Shegour in the North and a concerted rebel effort making its way towards Damascus in the South.

“The trend lines for Assad are bad and getting worse,” said a senior United States official in Washington who spoke to the New York Times on the condition of anonymity.

As a result, Assad is being forced to lean on greater foreign support for propping up his ailing government, especially Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group allied with Iran. In fact, Hezbollah now leads or even directs the fight in many places, angering some Syrian officers, according to Syrian soldiers, as well as the senior United States official and a Syrian with close ties to the security establishment, The Times added.

Since the beginning of The Syrian Civil War, Assad’s forces have suffered devastating losses due to high casualty and desertion rates that have wiped out half of his military personnel.

“Four years ago, Syria’s army had 250,000 soldiers; now, because of casualties and desertions, it has 125,000 regulars, alongside 125,000 pro-government militia members, including Iranian-trained Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghan Hazaras,” The Times reported.

This reliance on foreign aid has boosted Assad’s firepower considerably, yet the patchwork of smaller foreign fighters coupled with irregular forces have hindered the regime’s ability to control the military in an overarching force.

With this lack of domestic fighters aiding Assad’s campaign against rebel forces, the regime has prohibited military-aged males from exiting the country and has forced discharged soldiers back into service. This has fomented discontent with the regime and further eroded support among Assad’s base.

In another troubling sign for Assad, internal fissures have erupted within the regime, highlighting how dysfunctional internal mechanisms within the government have become. According to The Times, the government recently dismissed the heads of two of its four main intelligence agencies after they quarreled over the role of foreign fighters. One later died, reportedly after being beaten to death by the other’s guards.

Years of civil war have also destroyed the Syrian economy, leaving the Assad regime nearly destitute. At the beginning of the war, Syria held $30 billion dollars in foreign exchange reserves. Four years later, those funds have dwindled down to a mere $1 billion.

The Syrian pound has also taken a huge hit, decreasing in value steadily as the erosion of foreign capital continues to sink. This has led to further discontent with the Syrian military, as its forces continue to receive the same salary, but with increasingly worthless currency.