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Friday, August 28, 2009

What do Sunnis intend for Alawis?

This post is an update to And this is what I call good stuff. If you have any comments leave them there

What do Sunnis intend for Alawis?

Posted on Syrian Comment in 2006. Written by an Alawi, it's a view from a very special perspective. Some parts of it are a very good example of how playing into controlled tensions with the West (and actually everybody around) has become vital for the survival of the regime. It's also a very frank and blunt account of how much the Alawis dominate Syria's power structures. So go read it: What do Sunnis intend for Alawis following Regime change?

Among others a section of the letter that deals with the structure of the Syrian army makes a very interesting read.

4. The organization of the Army and security forces was masterminded very cleverly by the late president Hafez Assad to prevent coups similar to those that rocked Syria during the three decades after Syrian independence. The Syrian forces capable of carry out a coup-d’etat (Army, Special Forces, Police Force, and Security Apparatuses) are all bulky and centralized with an extremely complicated command structure, purposefully designed to frustrate plotters. Lateral communication is absolutely forbidden between units; all communications between units must travel through a cumbersome vee, first ascending up the command structure to the top level of one unit before descending down again through the ranks of the other unit. Most importantly, the many units and departments have an interlocking command structure so that no entity is autonomous. They cannot act without several other departments knowing about it. For example, any air force unit is under the influence of aerial-security (Mukhabarat Jawiyyah), army-security (Mukhabarat Askariyyah), the morale-guidance headquarters (Idarat el Tawjih al-manawi), military police, air force headquarters, army general headquarters, the Republican Guards, and the Palace. Officers with loyalties to theses various branches of security are sprinkled liberally throughout the security forces. This command structure makes the military practically useless against foreign enemies because of its stultifying array of conflicting loyalties, but extremely effective at guaranteeing internal stability. Any attempt to rebel is quickly thwarted and can be dealt with on the spot.

Now compare it to something published by the Middle East Quarterly in 1999

Combined Arms Operations

. . .

Third, Middle Eastern rulers routinely rely on balance-of-power techniques to maintain their authority.30 They use competing organizations, duplicate agencies, and coercive structures dependent upon the ruler's whim. This makes building any form of personal power base difficult, if not impossible, and keeps the leadership apprehensive and off-balance, never secure in its careers or social position. The same applies within the military; a powerful chairman of the joint chiefs is inconceivable.

Joint commands are paper constructs that have little actual function. Leaders look at joint commands, joint exercises, combined arms, and integrated staffs very cautiously for all Arab armies are a double-edged sword. One edge points toward the external enemy and the other toward the capital. The land forces are at once a regime-maintenance force and threat at the same time. No Arab ruler will allow combined operations or training to become routine; the usual excuse is financial expense, but that is unconvincing given their frequent purchase of hardware whose maintenance costs they cannot afford. In fact, combined arms exercises and joint staffs create familiarity, soften rivalries, erase suspicions, and eliminate the fragmented, competing organizations that enable rulers to play off rivals against one another. This situation is most clearly seen in Saudi Arabia, where the land forces and aviation are under the minister of defense, Prince Sultan, while the National Guard is under Prince Abdullah, the deputy prime minister and crown prince. In Egypt, the Central Security Forces balance the army. In Iraq and Syria, the Republican Guard does the balancing.

Politicians actually create obstacles to maintain fragmentation. For example, obtaining aircraft from the air force for army airborne training, whether it is a joint exercise or a simple administrative request for support of training, must generally be coordinated by the heads of services at the ministry of defense; if a large number of aircraft are involved, this probably requires presidential approval. Military coups may be out of style, but the fear of them remains strong. Any large-scale exercise of land forces is a matter of concern to the government and is closely observed, particularly if live ammunition is being used. In Saudi Arabia a complex system of clearances required from area military commanders and provincial governors, all of whom have differing command channels to secure road convoy permission, obtaining ammunition, and conducting exercises, means that in order for a coup to work, it would require a massive amount of loyal conspirators. Arab regimes have learned how to be coup-proof.

Source: Why Arabs Lose Wars

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