Assad's Indispensable Foreign Legions

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Jeffrey White - Since 2012, the Syrian regime has created a force of foreign combatants that has become essential to its survival. According to Assad's narrative, the Syrian Army is winning the fight against the rebels, but it is the foreign legions from Iran, Hizbullah and Iraq that have made such claims possible. Based on reported casualties and the estimated effects of defection, desertion, and unreliability, the regime's regular forces have been whittled down from over 300,000 to perhaps less than 100,000, with even fewer available for combat operations. Without foreign forces, the regime would likely be unable to undertake significant ground offensives at this point in the war, and it would have difficulty defending some areas of the country where it is still holding on. Hizbullah probably maintains around 4,000 men in Syria at any one time, and has likely rotated as many as 10,000 through the country. At least 300 have reportedly been killed (probably many more) and hundreds wounded. Iraqi Shiite fighters are also present in large numbers, often fighting alongside Hizbullah. The writer, a former senior U.S. defense intelligence officer, is a fellow at The Washington Institute.

2014-01-23 00:00:00

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