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 army will collapse during February,” he said. “The reasons are the shortage of Syrian army personnel, which even before March 15 last year did not exceed 65 per cent. The proportion of equipment that was combat ready did not exceed that, due to a shortage of spare parts.

“The Syrian army combat readiness I would put at 40 per cent for hardware and 32 per cent for personnel.