First Published: 2012-12-14


Has Syrian regime exhausted its military capacity?


Analysts says use of Scud missiles against rebels is sign of desperate Syrian regime.


Middle East Online

By Rita Daou - BEIRUT

Damascus denied that it had used the missiles

Syria's use of Scud missiles against rebels, as claimed by Washington and rebel fighters, is a desperate move by a regime that has exhausted its military capacity, analysts say.

A US official said on Wednesday that the regime had fired Scuds, and a former Syrian officer who served in a battalion specialising in surface-to-surface missiles also claimed troops had done so.

Damascus denied that it had used the missiles.

Karim Bitar, research director at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations, said: "Scuds are cumbersome, inaccurate and very expensive and there is no military justification for using them.

"Their use is therefore clearly part of the regime's psychological war against the rebels and countries that support them," he said.

Bitar said using Scuds was an indication that the regime was bracing for a decisive battle in Damascus, which "could change the rules of the game."

Riad Kahwaji, founder of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), said Scud missiles "are weapons of terror."

"They are used to make up for an inability to control the ground."

Scuds were last used by Libya's regime in the final days before Moamer Kadhafi was killed, said Kahwaji, referring to the 2011 NATO-backed rebel offensive against the longtime strongman.

"Here we are seeing a similar scenario," said Kahwaji. "It just shows the level of desperation. The regime has exhausted its military capabilities.

"It is like somebody with different size hammers. You use a small hammer first and it doesn't work, so you use a bigger one till you reach the sledge-hammer."

Kahwaji said he believed the regime had a sizeable store of such weapons in army-controlled locations between Damascus and the Alawite heartland of Latakia on the coast.

Former first lieutenant Aaraba Idriss said he was still in contact with officers and members of his former Battalion 57, part of Brigade 155, despite defecting 10 months ago.

He said they told him they fired five Scud missiles for the first time on Monday from their location in Nasiriyeh on the highway between Damascus and the central Syrian city of Homs.

Idriss said the "Golan-1" missiles were either Russian-made or Russian modified" and had a range of up to 300 kilometres (180 miles).

The Syrian foreign ministry categorically denied those claims, calling them "biased and conspiratorial rumours."

"It is known that Scuds are strategic, long-range missiles and are not suited for use against armed terrorist gangs," the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

However, a security source in Damascus said on condition of anonymity on Thursday that the army had used a smaller, Syrian-made version of the Scud.

These developments come as the conflict, which has reportedly claimed more than 42,000 lives, enters its 22nd month.

In recent weeks, rebels have captured a series of key army bases and consolidated their grip on large swathes of north and east Syria.

This has prompted Syria's long-time ally Russia to admit on Thursday that the increasingly bloody conflict in Syria might culminate in a rebel victory.

An AFP correspondent in northwestern Syria on Wednesday witnessed what rebels said was the impact of a Scud, one of six missiles that hit around the Sheikh Suleiman army base, which they captured earlier this month.

"There were 21 olive trees here, now they're all gone," said the owner of the land where one of the missiles struck just outside the town of Darret Ezza.

No one was killed but the missiles shook the town, breaking windows and sparking fears of more attacks.


Tunisia declares state of emergency after terrorist attack in heart of capital

Turkey downs Russia Su-24 fighter jet on Syria border

Kerry visits Israel with scant hopes for major breakthrough

Brussels extends terror alert as US issues worldwide travel warning

Somali pirates seize Iran fishing boat with 15 crew

Bahrain calls HRW torture report 'misleading'

Syria, Russia foreign ministers set Moscow talks

Rival Libya tribes sign peace deal to end months of fighting

Turkey reveals new cabinet of Erdogan allies

Hopes fade away as Sudan peace talks break without deal

At least 6 dead in Libya bomb attack

ISIS suicide bombers kill four in assault on Sinai hotel

Hollande heads to Washington to seek support for war on ISIS

UAE blames Islamists for delay in military operation in Taez

Egypt kills 5 Sudanese migrants near border with Israel

Anti-Muslim hate crimes rise 300 percent in Britain

Russia eases restrictions on nuclear cooperation with Iran

Gulf leaders to hold annual summit on December 10

Ex-Gathafi Minister arrested over murder of UK policewoman

UK boosts military spending as pressure grows to join anti-ISIS strikes

Israel bars Palestinians from West Bank settlement bloc

Iraq suspends northern flights due to danger posed by Russia missiles

Syria army advances against ISIS in central province of Homs

Pro-Kurdish leader escapes assassination attempt in Turkey

Tunisia group claims beheading of young shepherd on behalf of ISIS

Kerry arrives in Abu Dhabi for Syria discussions

Three Palestinians killed as fresh violence hits West Bank

Iran arrests ISIS-linked cell near Iraq border

Brussels remains on high alert for second day in a row

Israel seeks to strip citizenship of those who join ISIS

France warns Libya as ISIS gains ground

Fear escalates as ISIS edges closer to Syria Christian town

Iran sentences reporter Jason Rezaian to prison

Egyptians vote in second phase of parliamentary elections

Assad grateful to Russia as army advances on ‘nearly every front’

Obama calls for resolve in face of terrorist threats

Russia bombs ISIS in heaviest strikes since beginning of Syria war

ISIS claims deadly attack on Iraq Shiite mosque

Iran Revolutionary Guard simulate capture of Al-Aqsa Mosque

Turkey-backed Syria rebels seize two border villages from ISIS

Israel shuts down second Palestinian radio station

Brussels on lockdown over threat of ‘imminent’ attack

Palestinian 'apostate' gets Saudi death sentence

Jonathan Pollard's legend grew with far right in Israel

Shiite mosque bombings kill 6 in Iraq