The Syrian troops cause hundreds of dead and injured civilians in their attack to Homs’ city since Friday, 3rd of February. Justifying themselves with making “hot pursuit” of a group of supposed regular rebels in retreat. These actions in force spread already to other cities and small populations of the west of the country. This would be the summary of the news that are received from Syria during February. And with them an important qualitative change has taken place in this masked war. That is increasingly near to burst out and to develop and spread, with the typical characteristics of an armed sustained internal conflict.
Geographical Conditionings of the military Theater of Syria. His operational Characteristics in the Modern War.
Syria is fundamentally a flat country. The life and activity of his inhabitants is assembled and supported by 2 great rivers, the Orontes, which flows from north to south, and the high section of the Euphrates, which crosses his extensive and desert plains of the East, in south-east direction. A thin heights chain, the Ansariyya, which extends in its southern part in the Antilibano and Hermon mountain ranges, now close to Damascus, limits his narrow coastal plain, with Mediterranean crops. At the east of this heights succession, the Orontes, which feeds the irrigation of different crops from the Gab natural depression, allows different urban emplacements, principally Hama and Homs, from north to south. Around the Euphrates, the life sustains, thanks to the irrigations from the river and Tabqa’s dam, in the cities of Raqqa and Day the-Zawr and other minor populations.
As we have seen, the Syrian territory offers a favorable area for the operational movement and marches of the mechanized and motorized units and small units. That are capable of rapidly crossing large and surprising distances for their enemy. Using for it departure bases in their operational rear. This allows also that, any semipermanent concentration of the Syrian Free Army (SFA) could be easily reached, isolated and annihilated by the National Syrian Army (NSA) of Bashar al-Assad.
The Prolegomena of the Civil War in Syria.
Till now the combats between the rebels and the NSA were harassments, skirmishes, ambushes and small assaults to populations, which did not have the character of a «circle and siege», even partially and temporarily. All those had two key characteristics: they were very limited in time and did not have any operational projection. The falls of both «rivals», compared with those of any armed conflict that boasts, were ridiculous. On the other hand, many «minishocks» were not even detected by the normal observers or the international press.
The NSA has made one more step towards the crushing of the revolt, still in his tender buds. But already armed and spreading in «spots» over the whole west of the country. Using also in his «task», the artillery, the infantry heavy weapon and the heavy direct fire of the tanks. Heavy fire that, till now, seeks to sow the panic between the enemy soldiers and his civil supporters and the neighbors of the redoubts and strong temporary rebel points. Without that, with the direct and indirect support of their fires, take place military ground actions of operational transcendence. Only there happens the employment of «groups» of snipers by both parts. The select military men infiltrate and establish themselves, forming a short, discontinuous and broken front line, that covers a sector or strip of great frequency of movements in the population or city. And the rebels realize the neutralization action of the military snipers. And, while the panic produces the people’s move out, but rarely the flanks overflow, the soldiers advance, rolling in the created «emptiness». But without penetrating in it in force and decisively, to dismantle the rebel defense. Or to divide in sectors the enemy enclaves, as maneuver before their mop up by parts.
The self named Syrian Free Army in the Syrian Civil War.
It is a conglomerate of dispersed and unlike forces. That come from the intermittent desertion of small groups of members of the different forces of the NSA. There do not exist elements of the Air Force, which we know, between the rebels. The SFA is far from constituting an organic stable and consolidated structure. His order of battle is constituted, in his pinnacle, by the regional «brigades». These operate tactically in the “urban bed” of the Orontes. Looking only for limited goals of harassment or sudden attacks against the security forces and local important authorities. They do not have intention of defending the goals that are occupied. And they shelter at once, more or less deployed, in the nearby mountain chains. Or, forming small but integrated units, in some neighborhoods of the turbulent cities of Homs, Hama and other populations.
This rebel Syrian army, is better qualified and trained that the local «brigades» (hundreds of Lybian improvised «qatibas», in the style of «sans cullottes» or of the Iranian «basijs») of the questionable Libyan National Counsel of Transition. At least, his men possess a unit of doctrine, regulations and armaments. They have plenty of the varied personnel weapons, including the RPG family and her improved HEAT rockets of hollow lcharge and free flight and some heavy infantry armament (mortars and machine guns). His great weakness is his penury of armored vehicles, of artillery and of the antitank organic weapons of the companies and the specific battalions for antitank fighting. And the lack of a logistic stable network, sufficient and provided regularly.
Here also exists the social psychological phenomenon of raising in 2 or 3 degrees the category, the real size and the capacity of the real deployed and operative units. And that, for stale, does not cheat anybody.
Other active Protagonists of the Civil War in Syria.
The Syrian Army is the army of the nation. And it is formed proportionally as her, by a majority of sunnies recruits. That is which feeds, together with NCO s and junior officials of same origin, as an exuberant nursery, the ranks of the FSA. The Army is formed by approximately 200 thousand persons, most of recruit. The potential of the nation for a supported annual recruitment is around 220 thousand men. And it can reach even more than 320 thousand persons, with the first mobilization. Army is integrated by 3 army corps and varied and numerous independent units, with all the branches and available services. Within his upbringing is included a «political indoctrination». Not as severe, extensive and constant as that in the Communist armies, that look to imbue them with hatred towards the Zionist enemy and with loyalty to the Government and the Party.
The Army is «observed and controlled» by a younger brother of Bashar, Mahir, from his headquarters of the Republican Guard (the Haras al-Jumhuriyya). And by his brother-in-law Asef Shawkat, who directs the whole State Security, through his different institutional branches. In all the military «units» are «observers» of the Military Intelligence. Also there are several «Special Forces»units, formed exclusively by alauits volunteers, that nowadays received the joint name of «Force of Rapid Deployment», at the usage of other national armies. They are light infantry reinforced units, with the highest level in motivation, training and combat readiness.
If we want to speak about the combative efficiency of the Syrian Army, we have to depart from his specific “combat capacities». Definite and calculated by colonel Trevor Dupuy. And that refer to real values exhibited in conflicts. The last ones, calculated from the Yom Kippur’s War, were giving a value of 2,54 Syrian soldiers for one of the Tsahal. This was placing them over Jordanians and Egyptians, with values below 2. For more than 20 years, an improvement is perceived in the quality of the military personnel. And the junior officials receive now more tasks and are promoted also by his value, within the habitual parameters of the Arabic armies.
In this multicolored social military scene, are also present a few purely local autonomous militias, without operative connection between them. They do not exist in all the places and neighborhoods. There are out of the Baaz and his politician paramilitary militias that, for the moment, are inactive. Those try to keep a minimum of social internal order and the safety and the movement of the citizens and goods in the different enclaves, small populations and slums where they act. Their armament is merely the infantry personnel weapons and hunting firearms, in very varied number and composition depending on their location and contacts. Both the «task groups» of the SNA and the rebel bands keep, in this period of development of the fighting, a tolerant status quo with these civil militias. Which realize a suitable civil police labor for all.
In many alauits neighborhoods operates a paramilitary governmental militia (the «habiha»), formed by select militants of the Baaz. In different Sunnis neighborhoods act irregular armed rebels from the Muslim Brothers. It is very scanty the presence of radical religious Salafists and his furthermore exiguous local appendices. The past suicide attacks in Damascus were ascribed to them. This introduces a “social instability factor” in the “real parameters” of this war. That performs major effect and importance, that would correspond to it by the number and aggressiveness efficiency of these social religious radical Islamic. Finally, there also are «Sunnis irregular volunteers» from Iraq, without pays since the retreat of the USA. That would be crossing the Syrian border and her Eastern desert, to join the armed fight against the regime of the Baaz.
(to be continued)