Russia’s secret army in Syria

Michael Weiss writes: Russian military officers are now in Damascus and meeting regularly with Iranian and Syrian counterparts, according to a source with close contacts in the Bashar al-Assad regime. “They’re out in restaurants and cafes with other high officials in the Syrian Army,” the source told The Daily Beast, “mainly concentrated in Yaafour and Sabboura, areas that are close to each other, and in west Mezze,” referring to a district in the capital where Assad’s praetorian Fourth Armored Division keeps an important airbase. “The Russians aren’t in uniform, but they’re constantly hanging out with officers from the Syrian Army’s central command.”

Other Syrians claim to have seen Russians in uniform.

One family recently traveled from Aleppo to Damascus by taxi before emigrating by plane to Turkey and says it saw a small contingent of Russian troops embedded with Syrians at a military checkpoint in the capital. “We were near the Shaghour district when we noticed two soldiers who were not Syrian,” a family representative said. “They were tall, blonde and blue-eyed and wore different fatigues from the Syrians and carried weapons. I’m telling you, they were Russian.”

The opposition-linked website All4Syria seems to corroborate such eyewitness accounts. Many residents of Damascus, it claimed, have “observed in the first three days of September a noticeable deployment of Iranian and Russian elements in the neighborhoods of Baramkeh, al-Bahsa, and Tanzim Kfarsouseh.” The Venezia Hotel in al-Bahsa “has been turned into a military barracks for the Iranians.” [Continue reading…]

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