Syrian Air Defense a Paper Tiger
If you want to make Brigadier General Akil Hashem laugh, quote a US official about Syria’s “formidable” air defense systems. Actually, that’ll also make him cry. “As a patriot, I am not happy about telling you this, but the West should know how this regime is a paper tiger,” he told me recently over lunch in central London. Hashem fought in three Syrian wars against Israel and helped train the men who have gone on to fill the upper echelons of Bashar al-Assad’s armed forces. Up until recently, he kept in touch with some active-duty Syrian officers even while reprehending them for their loyalty to a mass murderer.
“In 1982,” Hashem said, “19 batteries of our 20 tank batteries—each battery consisting of five tanks and each tank equipped with three SAM-6 missiles—were wiped out in a single strike by surface-to-surface Israeli missiles.” Syrian aircraft fared no better. “Ninety-three of our air fighters were shot down in a two-hour air battle with the Israelis. No Israeli planes were shot down. This happened over the Beqaa Valley. I was there. I was in Lebanon at the time and I witnessed everything. So this is not rumor, this is fact.”