“…The Russians know better than anyone how weak the regime’s military really is. Earlier this year, a senior Russian official astonished a visiting American delegation by telling them that the Syrian army could field only 6,000 ‘capable and loyal’ troops for a big operation. Officially, the Syrian Arab Army is 125,000 strong.
‘The paper strength of the Syrian army is meaningless,’ said Tobias Schneider, a German military analyst who has done some of the best work on the regime’s forces. ‘The only thing … is how much money they pay a month to somebody. Offensives in this war are 1,000 people. Anybody who actually had the numbers they claim would be able to capture the whole of Syria.’ Schneider has been getting leaked documents from inside the Syrian military in Hama. What is happening there is revealing. Hama is the base of one of the regime’s most effective militias, the so-called Tiger Forces. A leading member of the Tigers was a ‘powerful thug’ called Ali-Shelli, Schneider told me. Shelli apparently went too far, even for the regime, and was thrown into jail for ‘looting and plundering citizens at a checkpoint’, as the official report put it.