Syria's top army defector tells The Telegraph: Assad's forces will fall this month
General Mustafa al-Sheikh, who has sought refuge in Turkey, tells the newspaper that the Syrian army is low on combat readiness, and that some elements are reaching out to defect.
Syria's most senior army defector, General Mustafa al-Sheikh, believes that President Bashar Assad's military will collapse within days or weeks, according to an interview published Sunday in The Telegraph.
"The army will collapse during February," The Telegraph quoted al-Sheikh, who has sought refuge in Turkey, as saying. "The reasons are the shortage of Syrian army personnel, which even before March 15 last year did not exceed 65 per cent. The proportion of equipment that was combat ready did not exceed that, due to a shortage of spare parts.
"The Syrian army combat readiness I would put at 40 per cent for hardware and 32 per cent for personnel," he added, according to The Telegraph. "They are sending in elements from the Shabiha (militia) and the Alawite sect to compensate, but this army is unable to continue more than a month. Some elements of the army are reaching out to the FSA to help them to defect."
Al-Sheikh's remarks come less than a week after Syrian opposition leader Colonel Riyad al-As'ad, commander of the Syria Free Army, said that around half of the country is no longer under the control of Assad’s forces.
Meanwhile, the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) on Sunday strongly condemned the veto by Russia and China of a United Nations Security Council resolution to end the violence in Syria.
"The SNC holds both governments accountable for the escalation of killings and genocide, and considers this irresponsible step a license for the Syrian regime to kill without being held accountable," the group made of exiled opposition figures said.
Russia and China on Saturday vetoed the resolution, which came after an Arab League initiative that called on al-Assad to pass on power to his deputy, and recommended forming a transitional government in Syria.
The veto came hours after the death toll in the central province of Homs climbed to 260 after shelling by government troops.
According to UN estimates, more than 5,400 people have been killed since mid-March in the government crackdown on protesters demanding Assad's ouster.
The SNC said it would support the pro-democracy protesters and Free Syrian Army - a group of army defectors - until Syria "reaches the desired freedom and democracy."
Army defectors launched several attacks on government troops early Sunday across Syria, killing nine soldiers in the northern province of Idlib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.