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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An inside look at the Syrian army

Now Lebanon has an incredible interview with a high ranking Syrian army defector:

Why did you defect, and what do you plan to do next?

Officer: I remained in my position in the beginning of the uprising to support it from the inside; I would organize, prepare and do what I could to see that the demonstrations succeed. When I felt that my cover was going to be blown, I left, but remained in contact with others like myself inside the army. Today I’m part of the Syrian Free Army and am coordinating with the different brigades.

Some of us announce defecting, like you see on television, and some don’t to be able to play a better role in the success of the revolution. So technically, the number of those defecting is far greater than what has been announced.

What happened to soldiers who defected and were caught?

Officer: Death. Death is the fate of those defecting or those who refuse to obey orders to shoot at protesters. Most of the executions are happening at military prisons in Tedmor and Saadnaya, where officers are being shot every Monday. Also, some who refuse to shoot at protesters are shot on the spot during the demonstrations. The aim is to set an example for others and to make it look like demonstrators are armed.

Who is the party cracking down on the protesters?

Officer: It’s a combination of army officers, police officers, security officers and the shabiha. Out of the army, the Fourth Brigade, which is one of the biggest brigades, is taking the most part. This brigade is loyal to Maher al-Assad, President Bashar’s brother.

The security forces come from the different security branches under the Ministry of Defense, but mainly the officers are from the Military Security Branch and the Air Force Intelligence, what people refer to as the jawiyah.

The shabiha take a big part in the crackdown because they are vicious. They are mafia and they are smugglers who trade in drugs, cigarettes, weapons, people, body parts. Most were initially wanted by the state or were in prison, but they were released to fight against the demonstrators.

Is it true that there are Iranian forces and Hezbollah members assisting regime forces in the crackdown?

Officer: Yes it is true. Hezbollah members are mainly used in the streets; they are well acquainted with battle techniques, while the Syrians are not. Many Syrian officers were left free to grow beards so that the Hezbollah members don’t stand out, but they still do; they are built differently.

At the beginning Iranians were mainly used as snipers, but later on they were taken down to the streets and Syrians took their places on the rooftops.

It was always hard for the Iranians to tell who to shoot at; sometimes there are instigators among the demonstrators planted there by the regime to create strife, and the Iranians don’t know who to shoot.

In places where confrontation is expected, and there’s a risk of them being injured, the Iranians are used to detain protesters and torture them in prisons because if they get hurt, they could be captured by the opposition and shown on TV.

What happened to the 61st Army Brigade in Daraa after it defected? Is it true that everyone was killed?

Officer: The head of the 5th squad, which the 61st Brigade is part of, was General Rifaii, who was ordered to crack down on the demonstrations and refused, and he had the support of the officers with him. President Assad himself negotiated with him, but he stuck to his position, saying that he refused to shoot at unarmed men.

They planted a trap for him. An order was then given to him to spread his troops in Daraa but not to shoot at protesters, as he wished, but then his forces were attacked by forces from the Fourth Brigade and they massacred them.
Read the whole thing.