Lara Nelson spoke to Khaled al-Shami who fled to Jordan after serving for four years in the Syrian army: He described what life was like inside Assad’s army.
“One important thing to realise is that there is no Syrian Army anymore, it is just militias, mostly Iranians and Lebanese.”
Division 9 is the largest and most important military force for Assad in southern Syria. It houses the only tank division, and has around 4,000 troops within four brigades.
However, most of the troops within the division are now non-Syrians: “Without the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese Hezbollah the army could not stand up. Seventy percent of the troops in Division 9 are Iranian troops or Lebanese Hezbollah, the rest are shabiha. Only two to three percent are regular Syrian soldiers,” Khaled said.
Shabiha is the name for the Alawite paramilitary force known for its brutality and sectarian nature. Khaled described the dynamics between these different fighting elements: “The Iranians and Hezbollah are not under the control of the Syrian Army, the exact opposite.”
He described how troops were organised and deployed: “Ten high-ranking Iranian officers control the division, they plan the operations. Only Iranian or Hezbollah forces can access operations rooms, no Syrian soldiers are allowed in.” [Continue reading…]