Syria’s army: collapse and rebirth

Military buffs will find a report from the Middle East Institute very interesting.  It’s titled “The Lion and The Eagle: The Syrian Arab Army’s Destruction and Rebirth“.  Here’s the summary.

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has been decimated by eight years of civil war. Defections, deaths, and a lack of funding have gutted its ranks while heavy losses of armored vehicles have significantly reduced the mechanized capabilities of what was once the sixth-largest armor fleet in the world. The inability of Damascus to fully deploy its official army led to the rise of paramilitary militias and an influx of pro-regime foreign fighters. Furthermore, the way in which the SAA units were deployed, by “task-organizing” divisions into reliably loyal units of approximately one brigade, led to the disintegration of brigade-division administrative ties.

As the regime attempted to reorganize beginning in 2014 and 2015, new divisions and brigades were created based on regional deployments. This strategy attempted to address the logistical and command issues that resulted from brigades operating hundreds of miles from the rest of their division. Russia’s fall 2015 intervention also ushered in a new era of attempted rebuilding. Between late 2015 and late 2018, Russia and Damascus engaged in four distinct initiatives to both rebuild the SAA and integrate militias under Damascus’ direct control. This report details the causes of the collapse of the SAA and its attempted rebirth and ends with a detailed examination of its current order of battle.

There’s much more at the link, in considerable detail.

It’s very interesting to see how a multi-party internal insurgency and geographical disintegration affected the Syrian Arab Army, and how it’s had to reinvent itself (with considerable outside assistance), learning its job all over again.  It’s succeeded to the point that it now controls at least half of the territory of Syria, but still faces enormous challenges in dealing with insurgent regions and units, as well as a geopolitical situation that’s very unfavorable to Syria at present.  The pressure from Iran, both political and military, is also a factor that has to be taken into account.

All in all, this report offers some fascinating insights into the past decade in that part of the world.  Recommended reading.



  1. Interesting – good read.

    Some guesses…

    Original set up of Syrian Military reflected concerns over a coup

    Assad’s clan and allies are the officer class, the Alawites.

    Most lower rank soldiers were not. Probably Sunni.

    Iranian cut back of funding has resulted in less Shia mercenaries from Iraq / Afghanistan that were used as cannon fodder. It’s also hurting ability to pay Assad’s regular military. Possibly also impacting usage of Hirzbolla as shock troops.

    Interesting Russia is sidelong Iranian aligned officers.

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