The Daily Telegraph reports: In his first full-length newspaper interview, General Mustafa al-Sheikh, who has taken refuge in Turkey, gave an apocalyptic insider’s view of the state of the regime – despite its attempt to reassert control this weekend.
He said only a third of the army was at combat readiness due to defections or absenteeism, while remaining troops were demoralised, most of its Sunni officers had fled, been arrested, or sidelined, and its equipment was degraded.
“The situation is now very dangerous and threatens to explode across the whole region, like a nuclear reaction,” he said.
The failure of President Assad to keep a tight grip even on the towns and suburbs around Damascus, some of which have driven out the army for periods in recent weeks, has led to a reassessment of his forces’ unity.
When Gen Sheikh fled over the border from his town in the north of the country in the second half of November, he thought the army could hold out against a vastly outnumbered opposition for a year or more. Now, he said, attacks by the rebels’ Free Syrian Army were escalating as the rank and file withered away due to lack of belief in the cause.