Mar. 10, 2017
- Assad’s Control Erodes as Warlords Gain Upper Hand – Fritz Schaap
For months, Assad’s army has been on the advance across Syria. But its military success has only been possible due to significant assistance from Iran and Russia – and from local Syrian militias. Now, these fighters are taking over control in many areas, committing murder, looting and harassing civilians. And nobody can stop them. Indeed, the militias are now more powerful than Assad and have become the real holders of power in Syria.
In September 2015, when the Russians joined the war, the Syrian army only had 6,000 soldiers who were fit for active duty, according to Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute in Washington. To preserve its regular troops, the regime allowed armed loyalists to form their own militias. In many cases, the leaders of smuggling rings or criminal gangs became local kingpins, who were then able to expand their business empires unimpeded.
When Assad, supported by Russian units, took eastern Aleppo in December 2016, the actual fighting was conducted by Iraqi, Afghan and Lebanese mercenaries under Iranian senior leadership – and by the pro-regime militias. The two largest militias, the Desert Hawks, headquartered in Latakia, and the Tiger Forces from Hama, each have 3,000-6,000 armed fighters. Additionally, there are hundreds of smaller pro-regime militias. The warlords have replaced the state security apparatus in cities and in entire regions. (Der Spiegel-Germany)