May 29th, 2012

Retired Syrian general explains lack of defections to Amanpour, also says: “This is not the army of the people anymore…”

Retired Brigadier General Akil Hashem served 27 years in the Syrian military.  On the Tuesday, May 29th edition of Amanpour, Gen. Hashem told host, Christiane Amanpour, that, in his professional opinion, the Syrian military would capitulate quickly to any military assault leveled against it.  He urged other nations to intervene militarily in Syria and says there will be no diplomatic solution to the current crisis.

He also attributed the lack of high-level defections of military officers – as has been the case in other Middle East and North African nations which have experienced recent democratic revolutions – to fear and the Syrian government’s effective network of spies systematically embedded in its armed forces.  Below, is an excerpt from the Amanpour interview:

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST:  …let me ask you very, very bluntly:  one of the reasons the rest of the world says they can’t go to help the Syrian people like they did in Libya or Kosovo or wherever is because the air defenses are very sophisticated, because the military is very sophisticated.  Now I have you here, what is the state of the air defenses there?

AKIL HASHEM, FORMER BRIGADIER GENERAL, SYRIAN ARMY: To be frank with you, it’s just excuses.  They know more than me that this is not the truth, and this air defenses and all these arsenal of the Syrian army is not big enough or strong enough.  It is good to face on civilians or light armed freedom fighters, like the FSA.  But —

AMANPOUR:  That’s the Free Syrian Army.

HASHEM:  Yes.  But what it says, a superior forward (ph), that will collapse right away.  I’m saying that with all sadness, because this is the army I served like for 27 years.  But this is not the army of the people any more or the country.  It’s the army of the regime itself.  It’s a group of gangs, doing all the atrocities and the barbaric act in Syria.

AMANPOUR:  Let me just — before I talk about the shabiha and the gangs, let me just play what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head of the U.S. military said this weekend about the Syrian military.      (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF:  They have approximately five times more air — more sophisticated air defense systems than existed in Libya covering one-fifth of the terrain.  All of their air defenses are arrayed on their western border, which is their population center.   So, five times the air defense of Libya, covering one-fifth of the terrain, and about 10 times more than we experienced in Serbia.    (END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR:  Well, that was indeed in March.  However, he’s describing the military that’s arrayed.  So is he just not aware?  Or what?

HASHEM:  As I said before, it’s just excuses to give them a chance to delay the intervention, because this is their duty.  They cannot turn their face what’s happening in Syria forever and ever.  But let me explain something.  When we balance the forward between two sides, this, you know, the amount of weapons, the amount of soldiers, everything is accounted.  But there is most important thing, the morale.  And the morals (ph) in the Syrian army or the (inaudible) — I don’t call it the Syrian army — it’s very, very low.

AMANPOUR:  You mean the morale?

HASHEM:  Yes, the morale.  Yes, and then the corruption is eating and killing and destroying every possibility of being a powerful army, because everybody is corrupted.

AMANPOUR:  Well, as you know, one of the main things that people are hoping for, the outsider, they look in, try to figure out what can make a difference here, is for a lot of defections.  There have not been that many defections.

HASHEM:  It’s very obvious why.  First of all, the security measures are very, very, very strong in the military and all over Syria.  So every small unit, even a company of 20 soldiers, there is an — there is a person who is the security undercover person, OK?  So while they are monitoring everybody.

AMANPOUR:  So they’re spied on all the time?

HASHEM:  Everybody.  And the loyal, before the people who are suspected by disloyalty.  Now everybody — and these people, security people, have the authority to execute right away any high-ranked officer, not because he is defecting, because they think that he is going to defect, by the intention, if they believe, this small soldier who work in the security, if he believes that this officer (inaudible) is going to defect, he can execute him right away, on the spot, without any hesitation and no question will be asked.

AMANPOUR:  And you saw that in your time there?

HASHEM:  I know that because I received every single day over 2,000 to 2,500 messages from all the freedom fighter (inaudible) in Syria, civilian and defectors.  And (inaudible) they said we proved about that.  So I’m talking from a position that I know everything happened in Syria, minute by minute.

AMANPOUR:  Do you think that there will be — do you think the Syrians can liberate themselves, these people who are conducting the uprising?

HASHEM:  I can tell you — I can answer you in a different way.  These Syrians will continue fighting this regime forever and ever.  The only way for this regime to put an end to this revolution is to kill all these cities and towns and department are fighting against him, which is like 15 to 18 million people.  If he kills 18 million people, yes, he will put an end to this revolution.  Other than that, there is no way.  But this will make this struggle so long and this will cause so many other thousands of innocent people being killed.  The only way to stop this massacre, I said that 700 times from seven months, the only way is to intervene militarily in Syria.

The full transcript for this program is available here.

Amanpour airs weekdays on CNN International at 3:00pm with a replay at 5:00pm Eastern in the U.S.  and at 21:00 CET, with a replay at 23:00 CET.