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.

 

US backs Saudi-led intervention in Yemen

Saudi-led coalition keeps up raids against Yemen rebels

Assad says open to dialogue with US

US lawmakers threaten Iran with new sanctions

Oil prices fall after Yemen-inspired gains

Turkish parliament passes security bill after long debate

Turkey army chief of staff visits historic tomb inside Syria

Heavy Saudi raids force Sanaa residents to flee

Israeli Arab MP walks for Bedouins

Gulf stocks regain ground after early losses over Yemen

Kerry presses Iran on nuclear deal before deadline

Somali pirates seize Iranian fishing vessel

Borse Dubai sells big stake in London Stock Exchange

Can Arabs form joint military force?

Libya rivals discuss UN-backed peace proposals

French President to join 'anti-terror' march in Tunis

Sisi underscores Egypt’s rights to tap Nile water

US-led coalition aircraft bomb Tikrit

Saudi warplanes strike Yemen rebels in Sanaa

Netanyahu to form Israel new government after shock victory

Turkey military responds to Kurdish attacks in southeast

Leaders see horror of air crash as investigators step up probe

Fistfight in Iraqi Kurdish parliament

Syria rebels seize ancient town of Busra Sham

UN reveals plethora of abuses against activists in Libya

IS attack kills 5 militia fighters in Libya city of Sirte

Yemen President ‘in safety’ as rebel forces advance

US considering launching air strikes on Tikrit

Yemen Huthis seizes key airbase near Aden

'Feminist' policy costing dear to Sweden

Obama says row with Netanyahu ‘substantive’

Tunisia honours victims of deadly attack on national museum

Roadside bomb kills two Egypt soldiers in restive Sinai

‘Islamic State’ woos Syria children with money: More than 400 recruited in 2015 alone

Huthi-led militia push on southern Yemen

US envoy to Libya leaves Twitter after barrage of online abuse

US provides 'eye in the sky' to support Iraq Tikrit operation

Turkey prosecutors launch probe as ruling party rift grows

German airliner crashes in southern France with 150 on board

Egypt sacks spokesman who said Shaima al-Sabbagh was too thin

At least 30 killed in central Yemen clashes

Tunisia national museum reopening delayed over security concerns

Kuwait riot police disperse small opposition protest

Netanyahu apologises to Arab Israeli voters

Libyan pro-got warplanes target weapons depot near Tripoli