Colonel (Res.) Pesach Milubani reveals, based on overt publications, Moscow's involvement in the Syrian army's operation. It turns out that even the post of chief of staff is manned by Putin remotely through a joint infantry.
Since the civil war in Syria officially ended, the Syrian army has been under the control of three elements: the Russians, the Iranians and the regime. Sources from the Syrian opposition have accumulated information indicating the degree of Russian control of the army, as reflected in a number of incidents in the past year. Also, we need to follow the regime's efforts to establish the control of the Alawite community in the army alongside the other state institutions, with an emphasis on intelligence and security mechanisms of all kinds.
New appointments at Russia's request
Information recently published on various Syrian opposition websites indicates that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has decided, following his "election victory" in the recent elections, to make personnel changes in the army, which included transfers and new appointments in about 20 senior positions. This is not on the usual and traditional date, when the semi-annual bulletin of new appointments in the army is published on two fixed dates - January 1 and July 1 each year.
According to the information published, the people behind this move are the Russians, who ordered Bashar to make these changes, probably for their own reasons. Whether the officers transferred from their posts are not considered their supporters, and are more inclined to the Iranian side, or because of their insufficient skills in the eyes of the Russians. It should be noted that some of them were appointed to the position only a few months ago.
The changes that have been made include the promotion of the commander of Division 5 to the position of Commander of the 1st Brigade (in the Golan Heights) and the promotion of the Commander of Division 2 Beaches (a new framework in the army) to the headquarters of this corps. Prior to that, he was the commander of the 18th Division as Chief of Staff of the 3rd Brigade (Northern Syria). As a result, other officers were promoted to vacant positions. In addition, a new commander was appointed to Division 8 (a relatively new framework established during the Civil War).
It was reported last March that the Russians refused the Syrians' request in January this year to appoint an officer to the post of chief of staff. This post has not been manned for more than 3 years, since January 2018, and the army is today led by Defense Minister Ali Ayub, who previously served as chief of staff. And three deputy chiefs of staff, as is customary.
According to the information, the Russians claimed to the Syrians that the operations room shared by them and the Syrians, which they set up at the end of 2015 after arriving in Syria, to conduct operational activities in the country, as well as approve appointments to various positions, fulfills the chief of staff.
Because of this, the Russians do not want the appointment of any officer to this senior position, which would interfere with them managing the Syrian army as they see fit, and thus controlling what happens to it. Whoever does not like them, is not one of their supporters or moves aside.
The same thing happened with the Russian involvement in the appointment of the commander of the Syrian Air Force. In October 2020, Assad appointed a new commander of the Air Force to replace the old, retired commander. The veteran commander was loyal not only to the regime, but also to the Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen operating in Syria. These apparently pressured Bashar to return him to his post, which happened a month later, in November 2020.
Wages in exchange for loyalty to the Kremlin
As far as is known, the Russians now control parts of the Syrian army, loyal to them. Particularly prominent is their control of the 5th Brigade, which they established after their arrival in Syria, and the 25th Division for special missions of which it is a part. Its commander, Suhail al-Hassan, is one of their most loyal Syrian officers.
This control is manifested in the almost complete exercise of this corps force by the Russians and not by the Syrian army. Presumably things are done with consent and without opposition from the Syrians. For example, this recruiting force was recently transferred from the northern province of Adlib province to the eastern desert region to deal with Islamic State (ISIS) forces. They have recently discovered activity there, causing casualties for the Syrian army, which is apparently unable to deal with the problem.
However, not everything seems to be going smoothly for the Russians. It was recently reported that they stopped paying salaries to soldiers of one of the brigades in this corps, as its commanders refused to fulfill their order to send forces to the desert area, to fight ISIS. This, after several times they have taken action in recent months. , And matters between the Russian commanders and the brigade commanders will be settled as the Russians will.
It should be noted that in parallel with this activity, Russian investors are making an effort to build a permanent holding for this corps in eastern Syria. They are building a large base in Deir a-Zour that will serve the forces loyal to them and their needs. This, among other things, as a counterweight to the presence of pro-Iranian militias in the region.