Borysfen Intel

Is Syria Able to Resist?

September 23, 2013
<p>Is Syria Able to Resist?</p>

The Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies “Borysfen Intel” affords ground to the analysts generation for expressing their point of view regarding the political, economic, security, information situation in Ukraine and in the world in general, according to their personal geopolitical studies and analyses.


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Pospelov Andriy

Born May 29, 1976 in Kyiv, into the family of an officer of Air Defense Radar Troops, Ukrainian, no party affiliation.

2003 - defended his thesis on “Military conflicts in Asia, Africa, Latin America and militarization of countries - participants (1975-1991). Candidate of historical sciences," Professor (since 2008) of the Department of Modern and Contemporary History of Odessa I.Mechnikov National University.
1998-2003 — post-graduate course at the Department of Modern and Contemporary History of Odessa I. Mechnikov National University.
1993-1998 — History Department of the Odessa I. Mechnikov State University.
1984-1993 — Secondary School № 29 Odessa.

From 2003 - ongoing — Odessa I. Mechnikov National University, Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary History.

Has over 50 scientific publications in Ukrainian periodicals on issues of military conflicts during the “Cold War”. Since 2008 has been editor of “NOVIK. Works on military history” which is published under the auspices of the Department of Modern and Contemporary History of Odesa I. Mechnikov National University

Marital status: Married.

Is Syria Able to Resist?

Способна ли сирия сопротивляться...The “Red line” has been overstepped... The Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) is getting ready to repel the aggression of the United States and its satellites by all available forces and means. But when, whom and what will the USA, France and their allies be bombing in Syria — is unknown. That is what situation around Syria has been since 21 August 2013. It was on that day that in the suburb of the capital — East Ghouta, was noticed the fact of the use of chemical weapons. More than 1,400 were killed, a third of them — children. Who committed this crime is not clear so far. Although Washington is convinced that the responsibility for this lies with “the dictatorial regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad”, there is no direct evidence.

The UN inspectors, who returned from Damascus on the last day of summer, did not find the truth either. The British parliamentarians did not believe this version and, on the 30th of August prohibited their Prime Minister D. Cameron to involve the UK Armed Forces in the attack on SAR. As a result, the anti-Syrian coalition is now represented by the United States, France, Turkey and a dozen of other countries, like Albania or Kosovo. But only the USA and to a lesser extent the French Armed Forces are waiting for the order of the American President Barack Obama.

Syria is waiting for it too. And though since March 2011 there has been a civil war there, most of the country's Armed Forces has not been involved, or has been involved partially.

Thus, of the 15 divisions that are available as part of the Army SAR, only four have really been fighting: Armored Division 4, the Division of the Republican Guard, Special Division 14 and Motorized Infantry Division 15. The rest are not involved, but in a state of high alert to repel the attack of the aggressor. How this can happen was demonstrated by the large scale Syrian Army trainings of June 2012.

Anyway, what can the ground forces of the SAR set against the “Anti- Bashar Coalition?” Obsolete Soviet equipment manufactured in 1970s – 1980s and a quarter of a million of soldiers (after mobilization this figure could rise to 400-460 thousand). Against the planned invasion into the SAR of the 75 thousand grouping of U.S. troops and a 100 thousand Turkish Army in theory this may be enough.

Cannot be excluded possibility of a return to the government camp of some subunits of the opposition, the personnel of which out of patriotism, will stand up to defend the Motherland. If that happens, then we can safely say that the SAR is really embraced by the classic civil war. If not, then more than two year Syrian conflict is nothing else but a hidden intervention of third countries.

It should be noted that the Armed Forces of SAR have acquired good experience of active combat in urban environments. There have been pointed out some positive results in the use of armored vehicles in street battles and at block stations that military experts could not predict, even in theory. On this basis, we can almost certainly believe that the Army of the SAR has already developed effective methods of modern active defense in the specific conditions of the urbanized, and, so to speak, half-urbanized (refers to actions in small towns) areas. If we add their experience of the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon (1976-2005), and especially the fights of 1976-77 and 1982-83, the chances of Syrian ground forces in defense of their country from external aggressors should be estimated as high enough.

Missile system Shahab-2
Missile system Shahab-2 imp-navigator.livejourna. com

The essential argument is ballistic missiles of Damascus. In the arsenal of the Syrian Armed Forces there are more than fifty ballistic missile launchers (tactical and operational) — Soviet (“Tochka” (Point) and R -17), Iranian and North Korean make. Some of them — “Shahab-2” and “Hwasong-5”— with a range of up to 700 km, are able to hit any target in Israel. “Rodong-1”, due to launch range of 1,300 km, is capable of reaching Ankara or Istanbul.

Israel is very attentive to this argument, while Turkey is trying to ignore it. However, in terms of “buzz” around the Syrian chemical weapons the only type of equipment for this weapon will become standard ammunition. Because of the small precision of the mentioned missiles, they could be used only against targets occupying a large area — i.e. for the bombardment of cities. If it is a city, then, unfortunately, we will witness the increase of the scale of the Syrian drama, its internationalization and humanitarian catastrophe, not only in the SAR.

For an attack on Syria the US Navy will be based in three areas — in  two areas of the Mediterranean — a) near Israel b) west of Cyprus, and c) in the Red Sea, not far from the south of the Sinai Peninsula
For an attack on Syria the US Navy will be based in three areas — in  two areas of the Mediterranean — a) near Israel b) west of Cyprus, and c) in the Red Sea, not far from the south of the Sinai Peninsula

Taking into consideration the experience of the withdrawal of American troops from the occupied Iraq in 2003, the only way to invade SAR is from the sea. The Navy of Syria could be ignored, if not the supplies from Iran and Russia in recent years, of the latest models of naval arms. For example, since 2009, to equip the Navy of SAR have been received two small Iranian submarines “Ghadir” and up to 10 small missile boats of the “Tiger” class. In all of these samples have been used North Korean technology breakthroughs, including (for boats) the original technology “stealth”.

The experience of local conflicts (India-Pakistan in 1971, Great Britain -Argentine in 1982), “Cold War”, activation of tension between the two Koreas in the period of 1999-2013 and combat service of the American Fleet in the Persian Gulf (since 1987) demonstrates that fighting of a modern Navy with submarines, even obsolete ones, is an extremely difficult task. At the same time modern avionics of American destroyers and frigates is not able to detect small boats, created by the technology of “stealth” (they are only visually noticed from a distance of 300 to 1,200 meters). That is why, the relatively cheap and simple “Ghadir” and “Tigers”, despite their weak armament (two torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, respectively), are a very effective tool for coastal defense. Their only disadvantage is the small range (200-250 km), which, combined with the range of Iranian missiles “Nur” (120 km), defines dangerous for aggressor's ships' maneuvering zone of 300 km from the coast of SAR.

Протикорабельний комплекс «Бастіон»
Antiship complex "Bastion" (SSC-X-5 Stooge)

For the same range of fire were designed Russian anti-ship missiles “Oniks” (“Yakhont”) of the mobile coastal missile system “Bastion”, delivered to Syria from Russia in 2012 (6 coastal launchers and 72 missiles for them). These particular missiles have a very high speed — 2.5 M at an extremely low altitude of 5-15 meters, a complex trajectory and a powerful warhead. They leave almost no chance to a modern ship to survive. Moreover, to store this modern equipment, underground concrete shelters have been built near Latakia and Tartus. So American and French aircraft carriers and attack missile ships (destroyers, frigates) will have to operate outside the range of the “Oniks”, “Tigers” and “Ghadirs”, which somewhat worsens the efficiency of carrier-based aircraft and makes amphibious landing impossible.

However, Washington constantly makes it clear that land and amphibious landing operations are not being planned (on which now and again insists Ankara, actually drawn into the Syrian drama almost from its very start, due to the short-sighted policies of Prime Minister Mr. Erdogan). And if so, then only the Air Forces and Air Defense Forces will be able to resist American missile attacks and air raids. Despite the fact that in the last decade, the SAR government has implemented a series of measures to strengthen these components of the Armed Forces, the situation is not too optimistic.

MiG-23MLD (Flogger ) Syrian Air Force
MiG-23MLD (Flogger ) Syrian Air Force

Thus, out of the 150 Syrian fighters only 40 MiG-29, and partially - 80 MiG-23MLD meet modern requirements. The former theoretically can intercept a modern attack aircrafts and winged missiles. However, the experience of wars in the Persian Gulf in 1991 and in Yugoslavia in 1999 shows that every shot down enemy unit cost one shot down MiG-29. For SAR such a situation is unacceptable. Besides, Syrian MiG-29s are just modernized planes of the late 1980's, or only slightly modernized by Russia to the level of MiG-29M1 (now, unfortunately, outdated), electronic equipment of which does not meet modern requirements.

A small range of these aircrafts in mountainous terrain and the lack of radar surveillance aircrafts are the facts not in favor of Syria.

MiG-23MLD has a larger (1000 instead of 400-600 km) radius of action, and according to the experience of local conflicts, — a small scattering cross-section, i.e. radars do not fix it well. However, it is a plane of the previous generation, methods of fighting which had been developed in 1980s (in 1989 a Syrian pilot Abdul Bassem deserted on this fighter to Israel, where the plane was studied by both, Israeli and American experts).

SAM "Kvadrat" (SA-6 Gainful)
SAM "Kvadrat" (SA-6 Gainful)

Therefore, chances of Syrian fighters are estimated extremely low, especially if we assume a possible invasion of modern American aircrafts such as F-22A “Raptor”. But then, the basis of the Turkish fighter attack aircrafts are F-4 and F-16, and the Syrian pilots likely will be shooting them down.

The experience of the civil war in Syria has bared another negative aspect of Syrian military aviation — a personnel problem. Really in hostilities against the opposition participate pilots in the ranks not lower than “Major - Colonel,” which may indicate the limited training of young Air Force pilots of SAR. Because of combat deaths and retirement for objective physical reasons, the number of experienced Syrian pilots will decrease over time, so the low anyway theoretical efficiency of the Syrian fighter aircrafts will keep getting even lower.

SAM "Osa" (SA-8 Gecko)
SAM "Osa" (SA-8 Gecko)

That is why the SAR government in such a critical situation should rely only on Air Defense Forces. Most of Syrian anti-aircraft missiles are outdated Soviet C-75, C-125, “Kvadrat” (“Square”), “Osa” (“Wasp”) (almost 700 launchers). However, there are 48 C-200, modernized by Belarusians, with a range of 250 km. What they about is well remembered, both in Washington and in Paris, where exactly these missiles in 1982 and 1983, during the USA and NATO intervention in the Lebanese conflict, were destroyed a dozen and a half of American and French aircrafts (including current at the time E-2 Hawkeye, F- 14 Tomcat, Super Etander). So planes of the coalition will most likely operate at a distance of over 250 km. For the Americans it is quite possible, but the French do not have air missiles with a range higher than the range of C-200.

SAM "Buk-M1-2" (SA-17 Grizzly)
SAM "Buk-M1-2" (SA-17 Grizzly)

Another trump of the SAR may be 48 “Buk-M2E” missile systems (firing range — 45 km), well-established in the Russian-Georgian war in 2008, 4 “Pechora-2M” (24 km), 4 “Tor-M1E” (12 km), and 36 “Pantsir - S1E” (“Armour”) — transportable gun-SAM systems (8 km) and 6 “Tunguska” (8 km). All of them are designed to deal with modern aircrafts, cruise missiles, and the West has not developed a means of resistance yet. For example, each “Buk-M2E” Division (there are 8 of those in the SAR) theoretically can simultaneously shoot at 16-20 cruise missiles and destroy 11-16 of them, and the battery “Pantsir - S1E” (SAR has 9 of them) will shoot at 12 -16 “Tomahawk” with the theoretical effectiveness of destruction at least 8. However, as show Israeli air raids on objects of SAR this year and in the previous few years, Syrians have not fully mastered this weapon yet. Besides, the mentioned above systems are means with short and medium-range (8-45 km), which in a remote war is a significant disadvantage.

SAM "Pantsyr-C1" (SA-22 Greyhound)
SAM "Pantsyr-C1" (SA-22 Greyhound)

However, thanks to Belarus, Syria's Air Defense System is controlled by an automatic system, “Bor”, which significantly (about by 25%) increases the efficiency of Air Defense, especially in its operations against the less modern enemy, the role of which in case of aggression against the SAR, will obviously be given to Turkey.

The Iraqi experience of 1991 shows that modern small-caliber anti-aircraft artillery systems are an effective means of dealing with the U.S. “Tomahawks”. SAR has in service up to 400 partially upgraded ZSU-23-4 “Shilka” and about 2,000 anti-aircraft gun systems of caliber from 23 to 100 mm. For the Syrian commandment an urgent task will be to wisely deploy these systems, as well as 4,000 shooters of man-portable air defense systems on the routes of possible flight of U.S. cruise missiles. However, they are outdated Soviet “Strela - 2/3” (“Arrow”) and “Igla” (“Needle”).

In counteracting the US-French strike an important role can be played by means of electronic and optoelectronic systems for detection of air targets. Recently, the SAR has bought some samples from Russia and Belarus (“Veresk–M”, SPN-2/4, 85V6 “Vega” and others). Besides, SAR has bought from Belarus systems of jamming GPS signal receivers “Optima-1” and laser-guided systems “Sapphire”. However, it is hard to tell how effective they really are. It is predicted that with the help of modern Air Defense systems and REJ (radio – electronic jamming) Syrians will be able to knock down or take away from the target up to 25-30% of cruise missiles. While about another quarter of missiles is likely to hit the layouts. However, almost half of the approximately 700-1200 issued by the United States and France missiles will reach their targets!

If the United States inflicts military strikes against Syria, China could evaluate the effectiveness of its radar and electronic warfare stations supplied to this country
If the United States inflicts military strikes against Syria, China could evaluate the effectiveness of its radar and electronic warfare stations supplied to this country

In this dramatic situation Syria has dared to defend itself. This was stated by Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Syrian Arab Republic to Ukraine Dr. Mohammed Said Akil at the press-conference in Kiev on the 6th of September.

At this, apart from its own Armed Forces and their military capabilities, Syria counts on the assistance of its few allies — the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the People's Republic of China and the Lebanese military- political organization “Hezbollah.”

However, only Iran has repeatedly stated that it will stay with Syria to the end. The last such statement was made on September 5 by the Commander of the Iranian Special Forces “Quds” Major General Qassem Suleimani. These forces are meant for combat operations outside Iran. In reality, this means that, in the case of the US-French bombardment of SAR, Iran will not only transfer its troops to Syria, but may also implement a number of actions on the territory of other countries – USA's allies. American intelligence reported about such a possibility on the 6th of September. Though on September 9, Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif tried to allay the fears of Americans about the possibility of Iranian terrorist attacks in Iraq. However, 30,000 fighters from “Quds” and an even a greater number of Iranian volunteers are ready to come to the aid of SAR.

Russia also has a point of the logistics of its Fleet at the Syrian territory, in Tartus. But, despite the statement by the Commandment of the Russian Navy about updating and strengthening the Mediterranean squadron to 8-10 pennants led by missile cruiser “Moskva”, Russian ships seldom come to Tartus. Therefore, in case of the US-French attack on SAR, the most that the Russian ships are capable of is to come to this port. Theoretically, this way they will save the city. Suffice it to recall that, according to the official version of Russian historians, the presence of a large anti-submarine ship of the Northern Fleet, “Vice-Admiral Drozd” in the Libyan port of Benghazi avoided further U.S. bombing raids in Libya in April 1986. However, they, Russians, will not open fire (which will further lower the spirit of the Russian sailors and the population of Russia). As for the two Chinese destroyers, which for the first time on a regular basis are in the eastern Mediterranean, it is only in case of U.S. attacks on Chinese objects that Beijing may decide on certain military actions involving these destroyers. The main reason is both; Moscow and Beijing are proponents of a diplomatic solution to the situation at an international conference in Geneva. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki–moon insists on this too.

United States have "democratized" Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. It  continues to cost America 500-600 billion US dollars of taxpayers and 500-600 corpses of American soldiers each year
United States have "democratized" Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. It  continues to cost America 500-600 billion US dollars of taxpayers and 500-600 corpses of American soldiers each year

In this difficult situation Ukraine is strongly against a military solution to the Syrian problem and internationalization of the conflict. About this position of Ukraine, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych stated at a meeting with Ukrainian TV journalists on the 29th of August. In his view, the escalation of the conflict would provoke a humanitarian catastrophe. More than 90% of Ukrainians agree with their president.

However, the administrations of President Barack Obama and F. Hollande have headed for aggression. Ignoring the fact that 56 % of Americans and nearly 70 % of French people do not support this action (according to surveys of the newspaper “Washington Post” and “L'Humanité” as of September 4, this year), and a sanction of the UN on this action is not even expected.

To understand the Washington and Paris' motifs is quite difficult. While for the leader USA this action can serve as a support to its «image of an international Policeman» (as often write American and Russian analysts), for President-Socialist of the Fifth Republic it shows «national-imperialism», reminding of the times of the WWI…


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