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Defections from Syrian army on the rise – Free Syrian Army | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Defections from the Syrian army and other security forces is on the rise, leading to an increase in the frequency of armed clashes between Syrian security forces and defectors in a number of Syrian provinces, particularly the Idlib Governorate, which borders Turkey. Observers monitoring the course of events in Syria have been surprised by the recent defection of a large number of elements from the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate. This represents a sudden and surprising shift in the mindset of this security apparatus, which was previously considered one of the most loyal to the Syrian regime.

A Syrian army officer who defected from the Syrian arm to join the opposition Free Syrian Army [FSA] told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the defection of a number of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate elements took place early last Sunday.” The Syrian officer, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, claimed that” the defection of these elements was a specific operation planned with the FSA. The FSA leadership was aware of the timing of this defection, and had coordinated with the defectors to provide them with logistical support and assistance to allow them to safely arrive at the FSA base-camp.” The Syrian defector added “contrary to the Syrian media’s claims that the FSA or terrorists are carrying out attacks on intelligence centers, any armed action did not come from us…these were clashes between defectors and their former colleagues in the Air Force Intelligence Directorate. The regime’s claims are nothing more than an attempt to conceal the fact that more and more Syrian soldiers and security officers are defecting, day by day, from the al-Assad regime.”

The FSA source claimed that “in the space of just one week, three specific defection operations took place in Syria. The first, last Wednesday, saw around 100 security elements defecting, including 3 high-ranking officers, from a battalion maintaining order in Idlib. This was followed by the defection of a small number of elements from an Air Force Intelligence Directorate unit stationed in the same region. We coordinated this defection in advance, and we discovered that this unit was assigned a number of missions including targeting FSA commander Riad al-Assad. The third defection occurred on Sunday; this was the defection of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate elements in Idlib.” He added “the first and second operations took place without any clashes [with the Syrian army] or a single shot being fired.”

As for why the phenomenon of defections from the Syrian army and other pro-Assad security forces is on the rise, the SFA source told Asharq Al-Awsat that there were three major reasons for this. He said that firstly, Syrian army soldiers are now aware that the al-Assad regime’s claims that they are fighting “terrorists” or “foreign elements” are completely untrue. He said “the soldiers are now aware that the battles being fought are against elements of the FSA and the defectors who join them.” He also claimed that more than 1,100 Syrian army officers have been imprisoned by the regime, with some of these having since been executed, after the Syrian security forces uncovered information that some Syrian soldiers were trying to defect.

Secondly, the FSA source said that the Syrian regime throwing its security services into a confrontation with the Syrian people and with army defectors has hurt the morale of the Syrian army and all Syrian security forces. He also revealed that the Syrian regime has recently resorted to delivering logistical support to its security forces via helicopter in order to raise their morale. Similarly, the security elements and the Shabiha [militia] have begun to refuse to patrol the country in ordinary cars for fear of their lives, and they have therefore been provided with armored vehicles by the Syrian regime.

Thirdly, the defectors believe that the Syrian people, in cooperation with the FSA, which has increased its capabilities, will together be able to bring about the inevitable ouster of the Syrian regime. The FSA source stressed that this is something that will happen even if the entire world abandons them [to the al-Assad regime], although it would mean a higher death toll and require more time.

The FSA source added “I am confident that FSA operations are not targeting any Syrian army soldiers, because they are our colleagues and comrades, and they sympathize with our people and coordinate with us on a regular basis. Rather, our operations exclusively target Bashar al-Assad’s gang, who are committing massacres against the innocent people of Syria. They are the Shabiha [militia], the military intelligence, and the Air Force intelligence, whose crimes and murders have gone on for far too long”.