Former Syrian Officer Says Ranks of Defectors Are Swelling

The highest-ranking Alawite defector from Syria’s military accuses the government of deliberately provoking an Alawite-Sunni sectarian war. He says that because so many soldiers have lost relatives to the violence, defections have increased to where nearly a quarter of the Syrian military has abandoned the regime.

al-monitor Free Syrian Army fighters who defected from the regular army are seen with opposition flags at Mahameel near Idlib, June 20, 2012. Photo by REUTERS.

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syrian military, syrian jet, syrian defections, syrian opposition, syrian crisis, syrian, military, jordanian-syrian relations, free syrian army, bashar al-assad, afak ahmad

Jul 10, 2012

A defected Syrian officer who was the former director of the Syrian Special Forces Operations Bureau under the command of Syria’s Air Force Intelligence said that a growing number Syrian army defectors are joining the Free Syrian Army. He confirmed that the number of defections has passed 100,000 in recent weeks.

In an interview with Al-Hayat in Jordan, Afak Ahmad spoke about the Air Force Intelligence role in the violence that has rocked Syria’s cities in the past year and a half. Ahmad, the first Alawite officer to defect, mentioned that Jordan has recently played host to 10 defected air force pilots. One of these pilots escaped Syria with his fighter jet a few days ago. He added that Jordan hosts four generals and chiefs of staff, 20 colonels, 45 high-ranking officers and hundreds of soldiers.

As for the situation on the ground, Ahmad said: “The facts on the ground in Syria favor the Free Syrian Army ... Defections are now occurring more often than at any time before, especially among high-ranking officers.”

Ahmad ascribed the increasing amount of defections to the disintegration and internal collapse of the Syrian regime. He said that a number of army officers are ready to defect at any time and added that the army currently controls only two-thirds of Syria’s territory. Therefore, it is rare to find an officer or soldier who has not lost any of his friends or relatives.

He told Al-Hayat that when one of his fellow security officers went home to the governorate of Homs, he was surprised to see that his house was bombed and that four of his cousins had died. He then immediately decided to defect from the Syrian army. Ahmad continued to say that no one in the Syrian regime likes to be a refugee or to be displaced. However, the killings and torture have not excluded anyone, and the military’s arsenal does not distinguish between opposition and pro-government citizens.

Ahmad clarified that the number of defected officers, non-commissioned officers, and members from the police force, army, customs and general security exceeded 100,000 people. This is out of the 450,000 total personnel from all of the security agencies under the command of the Ministry of Defense.

He stressed that the number of shabbiha (informal, pro-government militiamen) exceeded 25,000. They come from different communities and receive a monthly salary of up to $500.

Regarding the Free Syrian Army’s control over parts of Syria, Ahmad said, “Thanks to the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian army can only get into many residential areas within the cities by bombing and invading them from the outside.”

Concerning the governorates of Daraa, Idlib, Homs, Hama, Deir al-Zour, Rif Damascus and Aleppo, Ahmad said that the Free Syrian Army has detained hundreds of regime loyalists, including high-ranking personnel close to the decision-making circles.

He added that Brigadier General Munir Chebi of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau and Major General Faraj of the Air Force Intelligence command office are among the detainees.

Regarding the role of the Air Force Intelligence branch of the state security apparatus in aggravating the situation, he revealed that the mission of this body is to execute very special operations that are ordered by the supreme command.

He noted that one of the most important operations of this body was the first shelling of Daraa. This was done in cooperation with the political-security office in the governorate.

He said that the Air Force Intelligence also supervises and monitors every state institution, to the point that they gave orders to the elite Fourth Army unit that is under the command of Maher al-Assad.

Moreover, Ahmad placed the blame for killings and massacres — including the ones that took place in prisons and detention centers — on the Air Force Intelligence branch. He spoke about the shocking way the soldiers and officers treated dead bodies during the protests, adding that the martyrs were beaten and humiliated when they were transported in the soldiers’ trucks.

He continued: “When they were moved to my workplace, I saw with my own eyes around 120 bodies being hysterically beaten and insulted. Soldiers were shouting, ‘Do you want to exterminate the Alawite people, you araeir [followers of the Sunni cleric Adnan Al-Aroor]?’”

Ahmad accused the regime of dragging the Alawite community into sectarian war against the Sunnis and the rest of the Syrian people using rhetoric like “The Salafists want to attack the Alawites and rape their women!” as a pretext.

However, he stressed that the peaceful areas in the outskirts of Hama and Latakia, which have an Alawite majority, have recently been witnessing many protests that are demanding the fall of the regime.

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