I prepared this presentation containing the types of weapons that have made their way into the Syrian Civil Conflict. A wide range of weapons from many different countries have found their way into Syria, Chiefly through the black market, or Qatari-Saudi logistical support
By William Moloney
Everything about the embassy murders in Libya is horrific: the abysmal film made solely to incense Muslim anger, the overblown and hysterical anger of the mob, the ready availability of military grade weapons in Libya, the deaths of peaceful diplomatic staff and at least 10 Libyan security guards. All is horror.
However, it should have been foreseen. And in a sense it was. The US Embassy in Cairo, also attacked but by an unarmed mob, issued a much-criticized statement condemning the film. This did not prevent an attack and if they Egyptian mob had had access to the weapons that the Libyan mob did the attack in Cairo could have been worse. But the statement shows that at least the Cairo embassy, if not the US Statement Department, expected blowback from the film.
That the film would have blowback is not a surprise. It is only two years ago similar mob violence was sparked by the Danish cartoons. I am wholly confident that the films sole intention was to provoke such anger; for whatever twisted logic the makers are laboring under. They first placed the movie on You Tube in English in July. It was not till they re-dubbed it into Arabic and links to it distributed wider, which occurred last week, that it garnered much attention. It was this act of re-issuing an Arabic version that gives me confidence that its sole purpose is to elicit a violent reaction; which they got.
The maker styled himself as a Californian real estate developer who got $5m of funding for the film from 100 donors. More recent reports suggest he is an Egyptian anti-Islam campaigner. An American Coptic-Egyptian blogger and advocate sent links to the re-issue of the film in Arabic to hundreds of Egyptian journalists. All of that said, the film is an abomination and those responsible should be held accountable in US courts for it. They made this film knowing their actions would incite violence and are hence culpable, in part, for the deaths in Libya.
An attack on US Embassy’s should have been expected both in Libya and Egypt. Libya has seen a rash of embassy attacks in recent months, as has Cairo. In Cairo the Israeli, Syrian (numerous times) and Saudi Arabian embassies have been attacked previously this year. These attacks in Egypt and Libya are part of a larger trend of escalating violence on diplomatic staff and Embassies. Syrian Embassies have been attacked in at least 11 countries since the uprising began. Both the British Embassy in Iran and the UAE Embassy in Damascus have been over-run in the last year.
It is all part of a trend, not new, but growing, to target Embassies. Embassies are protected under international law and it is the duty of the host country to ensure the safety of both the buildings and the people working within them. It is an important underpinning of international diplomacy that the security and sanctity of the staff and diplomatic mission are sacred. This is so that the business of nations is possible. It seems this is not a reasonable expectation now.
Both Libya and Egypt need to find a way to protect their international guests and visitors. And that is what the staff of Embassies are; visitors and guests; with all the responsibilities that having guests places upon the host. Or they will lose the vast resources that those diplomatic staff can bring to bear in aid of those two struggling nations.
But above all, this is a tragedy that the region has been building toward; one that should have been expected and planned for. Too many attacks on Embassies and staff have occurred with no official action; be it police, army, government or religious authorities. It should have been expected that the film would provoke violence, as it was designed to do, and this violence should have been planned for.
We must do better for those diplomatic staff that are in the firing line of mobs but should not be.
William J Moloney is a UAE-Based Defense Analyst. He can be followed on twitter as @ZacLeBurn
We’ve all seen the videos of Libyan Rebels, the Somali Pirates and the Taliban riding in the back of Toyota Pickups.
Libya had the great advantage of having a large number of car users, hot weather, and cheap gas which encouraged people to invest in larger vehicles such as pickups. The video below was one of the typical images of the Libyan Civil War.
The “AK-47 of insurgent mobile warfare” was actually used twice against Gaddafi with successful results. There’s actually a war called ‘The Toyota War’ which Gaddafi participated in as part of the Libyan-Chadian conflict of the 80s. He was decisively defeated by Chadian rebels mounting anti tank and other heavy weapons on the back of Toyota pickups (and land rovers). The video below, while in French, clearly shows the aftermath of this assault.
So the Toyota pickup is not only the poster car of certain areas in Abu Dhabi, but also Gaddafi’s worst nightmare.
By William Moloney, Exclusive to KhalijiSecurity
The Free Syria Army (FSA) recently launched and are continuing attacks in various locations in Damascus. They have assassinated four senior figures:
- Asef Shawkat, husband to the president’s powerful older sister, Bushra
- The Christian Defense Minister Gen. Dawoud A. Rajha
- Gen. Hisham Ikhtiyar, who was Syria’s national security chief
- Maj. Gen. Hassan Turkmani, a previous Defense Minister and current advisor to the vice-president
The FSA has also seized border posts on the Iraqi and Turkish borders. During the operations the FSA has stated that they have deployed 2500 fighters to Damascus from all over Syria. Meanwhile, the Assad regime has retaliated with artillery strikes, Helicopter Gunships, Armored Vehicles and Infantry attacks within the city limits. Fighting has been fierce to say the least, and both sides seem to have taken some heavy casualties.
Many observers see this attack as the beginning of the end for the Assad regime. It is being said that if he cannot hold Damascus, or protect his inner circle, he is finished. But I suspect that if this is the case the fall of the Assad regime will take much longer than is currently being speculated. This may be looked back on as the turning point, or the beginning of the end, but that the process of the final fall will be extended and bloody.
The ‘Damascus Volcano’ (DV) attack has been audacious, ambitious and, at least, partially successful. However, other similar battles, specifically the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Tet Offensive in 1968, suggest that this may be a tactical loss for the FSA. However, this ‘tactical loss’ through perception becomes a strategic victory. A total victory will only be achieved after further expenditure of much more time, treasure and blood.
There are striking similarities between the two (DV and Tet) offensives. Both were launched on the eve, or over, the most important holiday in their respective cultures. Both targeted a relatively peaceful capital city of a war-torn nation. Both offensives began with surprise attacks in a number of locations across the City. In each offensive the battles continued for tens of days after the initial attacks.
If we look at Tet more closely, and here is a contemporary CBS new report on the Offensive, it initially appeared to be a great success. The NVA had managed to breach the security of the American Embassy, Vietnamese Radio Stations and launched attacks on the Presidential Palace in Saigon. They also took control of the ancient city of Hue, which was mostly destroyed in the 26-day battle for control.
However, on a purely militarily basis, the offensive was a disaster. As the offensive continued, the NVA started to take very large causalities, some reports suggest up to 58,000. The NVA never recovered from these losses. Their ability to fight in future would be greatly damaged by the Tet Offensive. The planned uprising of Southern Vietnamese civilians failed.
The Tet Offensive was a tactical victory for the South and the US. However, strategically it was a loss. The nightly television news beamed images of the Tet Offensive that contrasted greatly with the contemporary American belief that they were winning the war. This included the famous image of the street execution of a prisoner by a South Vietnamese Police Chief. The power of these visual images were such that even if the US was winning the battles, tactically winning the war, the appearance of losing was enough to undermine their cause and hand the enemy a strategic victory.
The Tet Offensive did, eventually, lead to the North Vietnamese victory a full seven years later. It also led to immediate changes in US strategy, changes that can be seen as the start of the end of US involvement. These changes in US strategy were: the US sought and began negotiations, the cancellation of the three-year strategic bombing of the North (Rolling Thunder) and, then led to, three months later, President Lyndon Johnson not seeking re-election.
I suspect that these Damascus attacks will play out in a very similar way to the Tet Offensive. The FSA has secured the appearance of a great victory. The attacks in and around Damascus, the killing of protected Assad-inner circle, the sheer bravado of the attacks, all will shock those that support the regime. However, I suspect that this appearance of a victory will come at the loss of a great many fighters and much valuable equipment. Fighters and equipment that will be hard to replace and may will mean that the FSA may be unable to conduct some future operations without significant reinforcements.
I also suspect that the FSA was expectant of a large portion of the Damascus citizenry would aid them in their attacks. Some surely have but more seem to have headed for safety.
Like the NVA, the FSA, will probably be militarily defeated in the Battle of Damascus. However, like the NVA, this battle has created the perception that the Assad regime is losing. This will mean that the FSA has earned a strategic victory from this tactical loss.
I suspect that the FSA launched the Damascus Attacks with this all in mind. They would know that it is unlikely that they can take Damascus barring a complete collapse of the Syrian Army. They launched these attacks to create the appearance of victory, to win the perception battle, to win a strategic victory.
However, the NVA strategic victory of Tet Offensive may not be mirrored perfectly in Syria. The Americans who lost faith in the Vietnam War effort after Tet had nothing to lose through loss; they had no vested interest other than the vague threats ascribed by the Domino theory. Like the Americans, some of the Assad supporters, and possibly international allies like Russia, may now seek to reduce their support after these attacks.
Those that are the strongest supporters of the Assad regime, especially the Alawite minority, have a vested stake in it. They perceive that they have no choice other than the Assad regime. With such perceptions their wiliness to fight on will be stronger. This will mean even if the FSA has won a perception battle, a strategic victory, it will not affect the core Assad supporters and may not be as emphatic as Tet was for the NVA.
Even if the FSA’s perception strategic victory will not be as strong as the NVA’s in Tet, it must be remembered that the Tet Offensive was only the turning point in the Vietnamese War; it was only the start of the end, not the end. It was another seven years of fighting and perhaps a million more dead before the war ended. Anyone that thinks, or says, that the Assad regime will fall quickly, and without a fight, I suspect is sadly wrong,. The war in Syria, history teaches us, is going to be going on for a while yet.
William Moloney is a Defense Analyst, he can be followed on twitter as @ZacLeBurn
Turkish RF-4E Phantoms
The shoot down of an RF-4E Phantom over Northern Syrian airspace has shed new light on several military security issues in the region. Chiefly, with the increase in Russian moral and logistical support, the Syrians seem to be much more comfortable engaging targets such as this fighter, and the recent shoot down, for me personally is quite impressive. We must address several questions with regards to this shoot down:
On to the first question: What was shot down?
According to David Cenotti’s weblog, the jet in question was likely to have been a Turkish RF-4E, a reconnaissance aircraft. Whats interesting about the RF-4E is that it is a jet whose main role is reconnaissance. The Turks have about 40 of these aircraft, receiving 8 from the US, and 32 second hand RF-4Es from the German Luftwaffe. The plane involved is likely to have been upgraded under the Isik program. The Isik program includes:
- Quick V/UHF and long range HF radios
- GPS/INS navigation system (LN100GT version produced by Aselsan
- Aselsan produced CDU900 flight management system (FMS)
- Digital memory RWR/Chaff/Flare dispenser by MIKES.
- A new OFP (operational flight program) for the new CDU900 unit that controls radios, navigation and RWR. There is no Multi-Function Display (MFD) in the cockpits currently but a single large color MFD will be installed under the TARP program ( LOROP and SAR pod project with Elbit, Israel) .
RF-4Es may be converted into interceptor or attack aircraft, but it is certainly not their main role. I agree with Cenotti’s theory that the RF-4E was most likely on a reconnaissance mission, and basically gathering video, imagery and possibly electronic data. For a routine combat air patrol (CAP), you would usually use a dedicated multi-role fighter.
The second question: What shot it down?
There are some theories circulating that the Turkish jet in question was intentionally shot down by a Russian ship, the Admiral Chabanenko. I think this is highly unlikely, as the Russians would be risk-averse and aware of the consequences of intentionally shooting down an aircraft of a NATO member, after its still remembered incursion in Georgia in 2008, then an aspiring NATO member. Moreover, Turkey is in the process of hosting a Russian gas pipeline which is intended to bypass the Ukraine and deliver gas directly to Southern Europe. Russia may see Syria as an Ally/Pawn but would not greatly risk its strategic or economic well-being for Al Assad’s preservation. A direct attack by a Russian ship accomplishes this.
Is there a possibility for an accidental shoot down of the plane by the Russians? Perhaps. But in the age of improved identification procedures for aircraft, and with an attacking jet having to engage in aggressive maneuvers in order for it to be subsequently shot down, it is extremely unlikely that the Chabnenko shot down the Turkish aircraft out of any perception of self-defense or preservation.
To get directly to the point: My theory is that the Syrians shot down the RF-4′s possibly with Russian Technical Assistance and advice. While the SA-2,3,5 and 6 missiles in the Syrian air defense inventories proved fatal for Israeli pilots in 1973, the RF-4E fielded by the Turks is several generations ahead of that in terms of avionics, integrated detection and warning systems as well as the support it receives from ground control assets and intelligence.
The Syrians shooting down an RF-4E on their first attempt (as the situation appears to us now, and based on what we know, this was their first attempt) would imply that they were very confident of their capabilities of seeing this task through.
The availability of Russian technical support on the ground in Syria has been well-known for a while now. During Operation Orchard in 2007, according to one of my sources, it was reported that a number of Russian radar technicians were taking the details of the latest US-made Electronic warfare suite the Israelis were deploying.
In June 1970, Soviet SAM crews were deployed to Egypt to assist in its air defense against Israel. They are thought to have scored several successful kills, and had outperformed their Egyptian peers. That a Russian advisory crew would enhance the Syrian Air Defence’s capabilities to the level where the Senior leadership would be comfortable engaging the Turkish jet remains to be seen.
The central issue is whether the plane was shot down by an anti air missile (which would add some weight to the Russian advisor argument) or anti-aircraft artillery/guns (which would take away weight from the Russian advisor argument). That remains to be seen. After the gathering of the 1300m deep wreckage, it will become clearer to all of us.
The third question What does this tell us about the Turkish military?
My first impression is one of recklessness. Flying into Syrian airspace may have been a bit reckless, specifically as the Syrian government cannot be considered a rational actor. Personally I believe in a difference between a rational actor and a suicidal one.
My second impression is one of questioning the Turkish air force’s capabilities. Despite being a highly seasoned air force, can one consider the Turkish Airforce to be a true NATO air force in terms of quality of pilots, planning and organization? This remains to be seen, but I believe a big question mark has been raised if a Turkish F-4 is shot down by aging 1960s-70s air defense missiles.
Of course, people have managed to shoot down complex aircraft with these systems, but this requires an entirely different type of person than the Baathist system breeds.
إن مشاهد التدمير التي باتت تعمّ سوريا أثرت فينا جميعاً. فسوريا هي فلسطين الجديدة، وجيش الأسد يلعب دور الكيان الصهيوني. و بدأنا نسأل الأسئلة الصعبة: لما لا يسلح العالم العربي الجيش السوري الحر ويدعمه ببندقيات ورشاشات وقذائف مضادة للدبابات وصواريخ «ستنجر» أرض-جو؟
علينا أن نسأل: ما الذي نريد إنجازه بتسليح الجيش السوري الحر؟ ما الذي نقدر إنجازه بالتسليح؟ هل يمكن للميليشيات التي تدافع عن حمص اليوم أن تهزم جيش الأسد وتلحق به إلى العاصمة، حتى نراه اليوم التالي في الإعلام وهو يسحب ويشتم ويضرب كنظيره في العناد وكبت الشعوب؟
الجواب هو لا، فمن شبه المستحيل أن تتحول ميليشيا دفاعية إلى قوة قادرة على الهجوم والإنتصار على جيش مزود بأسلحة ثقيلة ودعم جوي. حسب تقرير «المركز للدراسات الإستراتيجية و الدولية» بعنوان «الميزان العسكري العربي الإسرائيلي- ٢٠١٠» فإن لدى جيش الأسد حوالى ٤،٩٥٠ دبابة و ٣،٩٥٠ عربة مدرعة وأكثر من ٣،٠٠٠ قطعة مدفعية و ٥٥٥ طائرة مقاتلة عملية. وحتى لو استخدم بشار ربع الأسلحة المتوفرة فسوريا لن تُتحرر على يد الجيش الحر إلا بعد حرب قاسية.
السؤال الآخر الذي يتوجب علينا أن نسأله: هو كيفية تسليح الجيش السوري الحر عملياً ، فالأسد ما زال يتحكم بأجواء وحدود سوريا تحكماً كاملاً؟ سنضطر لنزع سيطرته عن أحدها لفتح خطوط إمداد للثوار… الأمر الغير ممكن من دون تدخل عسكري.
دعونا نستذكر أن الحرب السوفيتية الأفغانية (التي دُعِم فيها المجاهدين الأفغان بتسليح خارجي) أدت إلى ٩٠،٠٠٠ مقاتل أفغاني قتيل ومن ٦٠٠،٠٠٠-٢،٥٠٠،٠٠٠ قتيل مدني بالإضافة إلى تشريد ٧ ملايين أفغاني داخلياً وخارجياً. و قد دمر الأفغان حينها ما يوتزي ٢٥٪ من القوة القتالية المتوفرة للأسد حالياً.
لاشك أنه يصعب أن نجد بيننا من يساند الثورة الشعبية السورية ويقبل بسفك هذا الكم الهائل من الدم السوري. إذا كانت الثورة السورية تهدف لتحقيق أهداف الشعب السوري، فالهدف الأول هو إيقاف إراقة الدماء وحماية المدنيين. نستطيع ان نسميها ما نشاء ولكنها حرب اهلية ولا بد أن تكون أولويتنا كمجتمع دولي مسؤول حماية الشعب أولاً وإلالحاق الهزيمة بالعدو. اي ان استراتيجية تحرير سوريا من الاسد عليها ان تأخذ بعين الاعتبار مرحلة إعادة البناء.
والهدف المذكور لن يتحقق ببدأ تسليح الثوار ضد بشار الأسد فحروب العصابات غالباً ما يدفع حسابها المدنيون الأبرياء. دعونا نذكر الآثار البعيدة المدى التي أدى إليها تسليح المجاهدين في الحرب الأفغانية السوفيتية والتي نعاني منها حتى يومنا هذا. فالأسلحة ربما نعطيها للأفراد ولكن تسليح المجموعات لها تداعيات أمنية فادحة.
تسليح الجيش السوري الحر عليه أن يكون جزء من الإستراتيجية للقضاء على الأسد وليس الإستراتيجية نفسها. والإستراتيجية الوحيدة التي ستفضي على الاسد وأجهزة نظامه تشمل استخدام قوات تدخل خارجية تقليدية، برية وجوية. والجدير بالذكر أن صدام لم يُخرج من الكويت إلا بجهود ٩٦٠،٠٠٠ جندي من التحالف، فكيف يمكننا أن نتقبل فكرة أن ميليشات قادرة على أن تقضي على الأسد وهو يقاتل بنفس تسليح صدام و بل وبدعمٍ إيراني!؟
ولمن يأمل بإنقلاب عسكري في سوريا فإنني سأتفاجئ إن حصل ذلك فعلاً. فعائلة الأسد تطهر القوات المسلحة السورية ايديولوجياً منذ ٤٠ سنة. ونظراً للأداء المخجل للأسد في اشتباكاته الجوية مع إسرائيل في العشرية الماضية من الواضح أن قواته تضع الولاء قبل الكفائة. تسليح الجيش السوري الحر بهدف إثارة إنقسام داخلي في نظام الأسد سياسة لا تقدر مخاطر فشلها.
ثمة أسباب جيدة لوجود قوات تقليدية، والسبب الرئيسي هو إنجاز المهام بأسرع الطرق وبأقل الخسائر. فالإحتراف دائمًا يأتي بنتائج أفضل. وإن قال أحد أن هذه المقالة تدعو لإستعمار جديد، طغيان الأسد على شعبه بمثابة إحتلال التحريره يأتي عندما يتاح للشعب السوري الفرصة بأن ينخذ قراراته لوحده وحينها يحدد بنفسه علاقة سوريا مع العالم الخارجي.
أحمد العطار- محلل أمني مستقل
Alongside others, I was recently briefly interviewed by Al Roya Al Iqtisadiya (Economic Outlook) Magazine, please find a PDF of the interview (in Arabic) here.