The armed forces of Syria in the seventh year of the war, from the regular army to the volunteer corps
With the outbreak of civil war in Syria, the Assad regime undertook measures for the adaptation of his loyal armed forces to the conflict to which they were absolutely not ready.
The Syrian Arab army
In particular, the Syrian Arab army (SAA) was dominated by extremely heavy armored and mechanized divisions. All of these compounds was eleven (and two divisions of “special forces” — 14-I formed just before the beginning of the civil war, the 15th). They had a surplus of tanks and other armored vehicles and a shortage of light mobile, well-trained units. They also had cumbersome organizational structure, and could not solve the tasks in the course of internal conflict.
Mass desertion finally put an end to the fighting efficiency of these divisions, with the exception of the 4th mechanized, 14th and 15th divisions of special forces and “Republican guard”. Of the other divisions, whose headquarters is also the headquarters of military sectors were allocated their combat-ready component, usually kept in one of the four full-time teams. For example, in the 1st armored division, this brigade became the 76th and the 10th division, 56th brigade.On the basis of the division headquarters were able to create items command on the territorial principle, the majority of which operate to the present time (except for the division headquarters in Raqqa). They served as a basis of territorial or positional forces.
The majority of divisions or brigades with their numbers was the connections such divisional and brigade level only on paper and in the news reports. In reality, they are not appropriate combat values. Rather, they are reminiscent of the divisions and brigades of the Russian army during the first Chechen campaign. This situation has continued to the present time, and second, the fall of Palmyra in December 2016, is demonstrated.Located in the nearby province of HOMS, the military was unable to allocate any significant reinforcements and send them in aid of the garrison of Tadmor, despite the fact that on paper these forces looked very dangerous. Thus, the main problems of the regime in the first phase of the war began as the acquisition of SAA staff, and the lack of mobile forces and light infantry, able to quickly plug the gap in the event of a threat to one direction or another, and conduct operations in urban environments and areas with difficult terrain.
Formed after the 1982 operations in the mountains of Lebanon, four infantry brigade quickly lost the combat capability, being recruited from the disloyal to the regime Syrians. As a result, the first stage of the war the Assad regime as a mobile force of light infantry could count only on the 14-th and 15-th division of special forces. Their units operated throughout the country, exchanging on the different parts. The same military work performed and a separate shelf for special purposes.Riot, of course, all these forces could be called very conditional, as they were used solely as a light infantry assault forces. But it should be noted that the level of combat training they were superior to other Syrian units.
As a mobile armored and mechanized units, which were used throughout Syria, the most threatened areas were the brigades and battalions of the 4th mechanized division, who were reinforced by other units of the “heavy” divisions. Tank and mechanized battalion group of these compounds are often used together with units of the 14th and 15th divisions of special forces, providing them with armored support.Subsequently, as the infantry component of the 4th division was often used detachments of the Lebanese “Hezbollah” as it can be observed, for example, during the battle for Aleppo.
Group fighting on the side of the regime
However, all able-bodied compounds of the SAA, including parts of the “Republican guard”, which has also preserved the combat capability, but was primarily for the defense of the government of the districts of Damascus, and one brigade was deployed to protect Latakia, was clearly insufficient not only for offensive operations, but even for the defense of the so-called “Useful Syria”. In fact, at the present time, the number of the SAA is unlikely to exceed 70 – 80 thousand men.
Shabiha and National defense force
The regime was not able to restore full combat capability of the SAA due to the mass evasion of service in it. In such a situation, Assad had, in fact, to go the way of his opponents, allowing him loyal to any groups, parties and social movements to create their own armed groups, without any control of this process from Damascus. Due to the formation of a large number of paramilitary structures of different origin, which were taken by local party cells, the BA’ath big businessmen associated with the regime B.Assad, or even the criminal community, throughout 2012 were partially solved the problem of manning the armed forces. They failed to strengthen infantry units, which were these paramilitary irregulars. They were called the generalized name of “Shabiha”. Starting in 2012, the Shabiha appear in all regions of Syria controlled by the regime. In that period the strength of the force was estimated at 40 thousand people. But in the future it will only increase.
Some groups acted solely in a limited area — in an urban area or village, where it was formed. Other, for example, created powerful tycoons, could be used in Syria. These units also differed greatly in level of equipment and weapons, training fighters, discipline. Some were entirely local, while others had a complex hierarchy, leading to Damascus.In any case, the Shabiha have saved the army from starvation and were in some cases even more effective and sustainable in urban combat and in the defense of the settlements than the SAA.
Many of these groups have gained notoriety primarily associated with their crimes against the civilian population, which is reflected in the UN documents. Contrary to popular belief, not all groups were Alawite Shabiha. Some were formed from the Sunnis. For example, in Aleppo, the Shabiha role played gangster Sunni clan “Barry”, famous for his cruelty; exactly the same reputation and conquered the Christian criminal clan, in control of earlier ways of smuggling, which became the Shabiha in the area of El Quseir.
In the next stage of military conflict to reform has been already actually, these “heterogeneous” irregulars, which tried to bring to a common denominator and give them more or less a single device. In this regard, the Syrian authorities, as of 2013, to create “National defense forces” (NDF) under “people’s committees”. The formation of these units took part in the Iranian military advisers who are in the sample suggested that the structure and curriculum of the “Basij” — the Iranian paramilitary militia.
Foreign Shiite group
Given the fact that SAA even with the help of NDF was not able to turn the tide of war in this period in the country there are “the Shiite jihadists” — foreign fighters of various Shiite organizations from different countries that have since become an integral part of the armed forces of the regime.Most notable among them are the Lebanese Hezbollah and the numerous Iraqi groups, such as “Liwa al-Zulfiqar” and “Liwa, the Asadullah al-Ghalib” that arose on the Foundation of the “pioneers” of the Shiite Jihad in Syria among Iraqi forces — “Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas” and the conglomerate of Iraqi Shiite groups linked to “Asaib AHL al-Haqq”.
The RAA also operate forming, directly subordinate to the command of the Iranian “al-Quds”. In particular, recruited from the Afghan Shia “Fatimid” (their total number in camps in Iran is 18 thousand, of which 3-5 thousand are in Syria and are changed on a rotating basis) and the Pakistani”, Sanarium”.
“Syrian Hezbollah” — Syrian Shiite group
Many of these foreign Shiite groups begin to form in Syria its “subsidiaries” — as related directly or financed by the Shiite funds. This so-called “Syrian Hezbollah” which includes forces, “the Syrian national ideological resistance” — the local branches of the Lebanese “Hezbollah” and “Syrian Islamic resistance”, which include local Syrian faction of the Iraqi Shiite groups. These forces consist of Syrian citizens — both Shia and secular Sunnis and alawites.For example, the Iraqi “Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada” shaped Syrians your local branch of “Liwa Sayid, Rukia”. And the action in the besieged Deir al-Zor “Liwa Imam Zayn al-Abidin” — one of the many branches of the Lebanese Hezbollah in Syria. Most of these groups never actually entered the NDF and still enjoy the independence.
Other groups, on the contrary, even became units of the SAA. So, in the 4th division there is a regiment of the Shiite local (Syrian) Hezbollah — “Liwa Saif al-Mahdi”. Total number of groups linked to Iran, is estimated at 130 thousand out Of 30 thousand is foreign Shiite fighters and 100 thousand — Syrian Shiite group and the division of the NDF, comprised of Sunnis and alawites and other Syrians, but under the control of Iranian military advisers and partially or completely funded by Iran.
“The strength of the Tiger,” “Desert Falcons” and private military faction
It should be noted, that it was a clear “division of labor” between the SAA and the NDF, where the army largely plays the role of a heavy tank and mechanized units, and NDF — infantry units, sometimes even planted on APCs (BTR, BMP), belonging to the army. However, the army command is making efforts to create its own infantry component of the assault, which was to complement the Spetsnaz forces from the 14th and 15th divisions. Thus, in the fall of 2013, there are “Tiger Force” deployed in the same division.
Provides for the possibility to provide Russian military command a wide degree of independence in conducting military actions without the need to involve the Pro-Iranian formation and change in favor of them in the course of an operation. So, initially intended to be another “elite army unit”, these forces find a serious sponsor exploration of the air force and pursuing their own goals. As a result, they do not so much reinforce the 14-th and 15-th division, how many, on the contrary, weaken them, luring the most prepared fighters.Weakened they and the remaining combat-ready army units such as the 4th mechanized division or 11th armored, which also took the best officers in the divisions division “Force Tiger” and his brigade — “the power of the Cheetah” and “Power Panther”. However, they are subject to the headquarters of the SAA very formal, being, in fact, the units associated with the exploration of the air force.Until, finally, the “Power Tiger” do not become fully Autonomous “faction” of the Syrian Pro-government forces with their own tank units (equipped with the latest Russian tanks T-90), and other units, providing them a degree of independence.
The appearance of the “Desert falcons,” the only private military company, though affiliated with the SAA, also weakens the composition of the 14th and 15th divisions. Now their names are very rare to find in the reports of the fighting, unlike the same “Tigers” or “Desert Falcon”. Thus, in addition to the SAA and defense forces, there is another component of the armed groups operating on the side of the regime — private units.Besides the already mentioned compounds, these include units of the “al-Kataib Gabalawi” and “Leopards of HOMS” (but there are others), formed by Rami Makhlouf and his “Association of the al-Bustan”.
Russian trace — volunteer assault case
Finally, with the participation of Russian military advisers began to form 4-volunteer assault case. The place of its formation was a province of Latakia. An example was a team of “Shield of the Coast” created in Latakia Alawi of local volunteers with the support of the “Republican guard”. The difference of the 4th corps from the militia and territorial NSO in that it was not an alternative to service in SAA. The body was formed from already served “veterans” or those who, for one reason or another were exempted from service.But in fact it staffing, as often happens, is by luring other fighters, including competing structures, i.e. divisions of the Army or NDF. Upon admission to the unit preserved civilian salaries, to which was added a new payment that indicates the major sources of funding.
As a result, by autumn 2015, 6 recruited local volunteer brigades (some probably disused NDF brigade) and 103rd brigade of the “Republican guard”, which, most likely, as staff and provision of heavy equipment, as well as some other parts and was deployed 4th assault volunteer corps. He was able to achieve some success during offensives in Latakia in late 2015 or early 2016 the Very name “assault” indicated the changing trend.Now, instead of defensive structures, such as NDF and spontaneous teams, “Shields” (defense of the coast, etc.) regime forces target the offensive.
After the formation of the 4th corps begins to create close to it structure — the 5th assault corps volunteer, but not regional (Latakia) and the Syrian values. It needs to be completed including by using “hidden reserves”. In particular, for service in the brigade will be involved amnestied the rebels and deserters, and others avoiding military service person. At the same time for the receipt in case there is a serious financial incentive in the continued use of pre-war wages and war bonuses.
If the 4th corps was deployed exclusively in Latakia and were more experimental in nature, the places of formation of the 5th corps scattered all over Syria, and conditions of service are different from the 4th corps. It is possible that the forces of the 5th corps would work closely with those units on military installations on which they are formed (5 Panzer division, the 15th division SPN). It is also expected that these forces can create the right infantry component to interact with a “heavy” battalions of the SAA is dependent on Iran NDF.Thereby provides for the possibility to provide Russian military command a wide degree of independence in conducting military actions without the need to involve the Pro-Iranian formation and change in favor of them in the course of an operation. It is wary of Tehran. And, according to some, Iran insists on its more active participation in the creation of the 5th corps.
In addition, the new trend of development of the armed forces of the regime may be strengthening the “Republican guard”, which in the end will have to absorb all the most efficient part of the SAA. As the sample can be used in Aleppo formed a new connection, which will bring together all units of the Syrian Arab army operating in the area of the city, in a new formation — the 30th division “Republican guard.”
At each new stage of reforms and attempts to strengthen the fighting capacity of his loyal forces, the Assad regime to create new add-ins, each of which has a different degree of dependence or independence from Damascus. And each of them relies on the support of one or another foreign or domestic sponsor, as, in fact, his “proxy”. In itself, the presence of so many disparate and not-controlled full Damascus structures laying under the Syria (and not only under the regime) time bomb, prevents the implementation of the agreements on ceasefire and requires the establishment of clear lines in relation to their future.