The defense, which (2006) comprises 310,000 men, is based on general military duty with an initial service of 30 months. The army comprises 200,000 men and is organized into ten mechanized divisions and four independent brigades. In addition, the Republican Guard, an elite unit of division size and a division of “special forces”. Syria has three ground robot brigades and more than 4,900 tanks. The Navy comprises 7,500 men with two frigates, 18 smaller battleships, three landing craft and a naval aircraft of about 15 combat helicopters. The Air Force comprises 40,000 men with approximately 580 fighter aircraft and 70 armed helicopters. Semi-military security forces amount to 8,000 men. The People’s Army, a reserve, consists of 100,000 men. The material is semi-modern and of Soviet origin.
Defense costs decreased in 1985-96 from 16.4% to 4.8% of GDP (2006) to 6% of GDP. 150 military advisers from the Russian Federation serve mainly in the air defense. The UN peacekeeping military forces (UNDOF) on the border with Israel amount to about 1,100 men. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that SYR stands for Syria.
Syria’s government forces have undergone significant changes during the civil war in the country, from 2011. Security police, and gradually army and air forces, were particularly targeted from 2012 against the military resistance to the regime. A number of officers deserted, in part took stock of material, and joined various rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Syria has military service with initial service of 30 months. Force numbers are uncertain because of the civil war, and it is uncertain in what state the material is in. The total force figures for Syria’s armed forces are estimated at 139,000 active personnel (2018, IISS). Figures for semi-military forces are unknown, but are estimated at close to 100,000 personnel. The overall structure also includes a larger number of reserves. Before the war, the size of the regular forces was about 325,000 active personnel. The Syrian defense was previously considered one of the best trained in the region.
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Russia has 5,000 personnel, and fighter jets, combat helicopters and anti-aircraft missile batteries in Syria. Hezbollah has between 7,000 and 8,000 personnel, and Iran has 3,000 personnel in Syria.
The army is estimated to have a workforce of about 100,000 active personnel. Materials include an unknown number of tanks (of types T-90, T-72, T-62 and T-55), clearing carriages, storm tanks, armored personnel vehicles, armored fighters and self-propelled artillery. The army is also reported to have heavy artillery, medium range air defense missiles, light air defense artillery, and short range ballistic missiles and conventional warheads. In addition, the army has light and medium- heavy drones.
The Air Force has a personnel force of about 15,000 active personnel. Materials include 64 fighter jets (34 MiG-23 and 30 MiG-29), 157 fighter aircraft (77 MiG-21, 41 MiG-23, 28 Su-22 and 11 Su-24), 23 transport aircraft, 15 L-39 training aircraft Albatros (which can also be used as light attack aircraft), and 95 helicopters, including 24 Mi-25 combat helicopters. The number of aircraft and helicopters has been significantly reduced since the Civil War began, and it is estimated that only 30 to 40 percent of the aircraft’s weapons are operational.
Air defense command
The Air Force Command has a personnel force of about 20,000 active personnel. Materials include long range air defense missiles.
The Navy has a workforce of about 4,000 active personnel. The fleet includes two corvettes, 30 patrol vessels, seven mine sweepers, three landings, and one supply and auxiliary vessel. In addition, the Navy has 10 helicopters, but these are not considered operational. The coastal defense has batteries with cruise and naval missiles.
Regional political development
Regionally, a new stability was established after the October war , fought against Israel in 1973. Relations with Israel remained tense, especially as a result of the country’s occupation and later annexation of the Golan Heights. There was no new war, however, against military confrontations in Lebanon in 1982. Syria has been involved in the conflict in Lebanon both through military intervention and support to militia groups; eventually most of all Hezbollah. Syria and Hezbollah are supported, economically and militarily, by Iran, which has helped to strengthen the regional dimension of the war.
International stood Syria faced new challenges especially in relation to the United States, and especially after al-Qaeda’s attacks on 11 September 2001 and the subsequent global war on terror. President George W. Bush viewed Syria as one of the states that supported terrorism, including through its close relationship with Iran and its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. Syria was put on a list of countries the US wanted to contribute to regime change in, even if necessary through war.
In the region, the Baath regime was pressured as a result of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, as well as during the so-called Cedar Revolution in Lebanon in 2005, which led Syria to withdraw its last forces from the country.
Bashar al-Assad, despite a weakened position in Lebanon, tried to continue his father’s policy as a leading regional player. This was reflected in his continued support for the Palestinian liberation struggle, while seeking a peace deal with Israel. The initial negotiations with Israel were stranded in the 1990s, and stopped again after Israel’s military action against the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009: Operation Cast Lead. Discussions were conducted despite Israel’s air strikes against a suspected Syrian nuclear plant in 2007. Syria developed a good relationship with Turkey in the 2000sBut during the war, Turkey became the Syrian insurgents’ most important area of operation, and conditions deteriorated. In 2015, Turkey went directly into the war, mostly to prevent expanded Kurdish control along the border. In 2019, Turkey invaded the northernmost part of Syria.
Several states and organizations called for Assad to step down as a precondition for a political solution to the conflict. He opposed this, and was eventually considered a necessary part of a political solution to the conflict.
Political softening in Syria after Bashar al-Assad took over as president was called the Damascus Spring. It thus occurred more than ten years before the Arab Spring, which also led to the uprising in Syria. The Syrian uprising broke out in the spring of 2011 and developed rapidly. In the winter of 2010–2011, Assad initiated some political and economic reforms, but they did not meet expectations, among other things, for the introduction of democracy.
Liberalization took place especially in the economic sphere, benefiting most traders and the circles around the regime. The disadvantaged, both in the cities and in the countryside, had deteriorated living conditions, which contributed to the support of the uprising. With a business largely dominated by Sunnis, Assad succeeds in winning support in prominent parts of this group – which constitutes the majority of the Syrian people. However, Sunnis became the central force in the uprising, aimed at a regime dominated by the minority Alawites. The Syrian regime is characterized as Alawite, but is secular, with a power base among the Alawites.
Assad was challenged both in the domestic and foreign policy areas: home to an opposition during the Damascus Spring, then to the uprising and the war.
After being nominated and elected president without a counter candidate in 2000, Assad was re-elected for a new seven-year term in 2007, and again in 2014.