Tom Cooper writes: Five years into Syria’s apocalyptic civil war, there is no more Syrian Arab Army on the country’s battlefields. So who’s fighting for Syrian president Bashar Al Assad?
The answer is a shocking one. Today the forces fighting for the Syrian regime represent a hodgepodge of sectarian local militias, most of which do not fall under the regime’s direct control.
In other words, Al Assad is waging a war with virtually no troops of his own.
The exceptions to this rule are few — only around a dozen of company-sized formations that survived the collapse of the Syrian army’s Republican Guards Division and 4th Armored Division. And those companies were never within the normal army chain of command, instead personally answering to Al Assad.
The majority of the remaining “regime forces” — some 70,000 combatants — belong to the Syrian militias, all of which were established by either the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or Hezbollah, and the majority of which now fall under Iranian control. [Continue reading…]