Syria Defense and Security Part I

By | December 17, 2021

The Syrian military was considered not to be at the forefront, especially considering that Damascus’s largest arms supplier has historically been the Soviet Union. Furthermore, as a legacy of the Soviet presence, Syria hosts a naval base in the port of Tartous, which is operational as the Mediterranean base of the Russian Federation and which is today the main supply center for Russian troops stationed in Syria. To this was added the base in Latakia, which the Russian army obtained from the expansion of the local airport. During the civil war the Syrian army was again equipped with rather obsolete Soviet-derived armaments, although, mainly due to its aeronautical and heavy artillery equipment, it is still tactically far superior to the rebel forces fighting it. Damascus also has a decent missile arsenal, thanks to the collaboration in the sector with Iran and North Korea. Between 2012 and 2013, the Syrian army was severely damaged by defections, especially by ordinary soldiers and lower-ranking officers, belonging to the Sunni community. This prompted Assad to rely more and more on his own special troops, and above all on the presidential guard, an elite corps made up almost entirely of Alawites and commanded by his brother Maher al-Assad. The fact of being able to count on a very small number of trusted men made it impossible for the regular army to completely control the territory. To cope with these obstacles, the regime has promoted the formation of paramilitary militias often composed on a sectarian basis to support the troops of the regular army. However,  even this solution proved insufficient and in September 2015 Bashar al-Assad admitted that he was unable to find new recruits. The small number of men led the regime to withdraw from numerous territories. Since the beginning of 2013 he no longer has control of the north and a large part of Aleppo. The rest of the country is patchy controlled, with large areas of the territory left to rebels or Islamic State troops and, in the north-east, to the Kurdish militias. The Regime forces are currently concentrating in the capital and on controlling the main north-south communication routes. In 2012 the Syrian army came a step away from military confrontation with Turkey, due to an escalation of political tension that reached its peak following the explosion of some mortar rounds in Turkish territory, which killed five civilians. The other historically delicate border – above all due to the dispute over the Golan – is that with Israel, which has remained largely neutral throughout the ongoing civil conflict, limiting itself to threatening military intervention if Assad’s chemical arsenal risks falling. in the hands of extremists hostile to Tel Aviv or Hezbollah. After the crisis with the UScaused by Ghouta’s severe chemical attack that brought Washington to the brink of direct military intervention against Assad, the regime had to give up its chemical arsenal. Although not all the ascertained deposits are on appeal, the disposal of a large part of the arsenal took place between 2014 and 2015. For Syria defense and foreign policy, please check

The Syrian Kurds and the ‘Rojava experiment’

Located in the north-eastern part of the country, Syrian Kurdistan is known among the Kurdish population simply with the term Rojava, ‘west’, as it represents the western part of the Kurdish nation, whose territory is divided between Turkey, Iraq, Iran and, in fact, Syria. According to unofficial estimates, Kurds represent about 10% of the population, although their real number is not known to the authorities. Until 2011, the Kurds did not enjoy Syrian citizenship and were not counted in official statistics. After the start of the revolt in 2011, however, the regime suddenly decided to grant them citizenship to prevent them from joining the rebel forces. This tacit agreement of non-belligerence between the Kurds and the regime held up during the five years of conflict and then translated into a control de facto of the territories with a Kurdish majority by the Pyd (from the Kurdish acronym for Party of Democratic Union, the Syrian branch of the Turkish PKK). The militias of the Pyd have often fought against fundamentalist factions of the rebels against ‘ Is it wished to appropriate it (especially in the region around Dayr az-Zwar, where are the oil wells of Syria). The almost total autonomy enjoyed by the Kurdish majority regions under the control of the PYD since the beginning of the conflictled in November 2013 to the publication of the ‘Charter of the social contract’, a document that effectively sanctioned the independence of the Kurdish territories, and their transformation into a federal entity made up of three autonomous cantons. This experiment of self-government of Syrian Kurdistan has attracted the attention of international observers for its peculiar characteristics, very different from those of the typically Middle Eastern political systems. The ‘Rojava experiment’ – as it has been commonly defined – is in fact characterized by a widespread system of local assemblies and elections, by a strong involvement of individual citizens in public life as well as by the presence also within its Constitutional Charter of a strong emphasis on secular values, gender equality and environmental protection. Pyd have committed violations of human rights, especially towards the Arab and Christian-Assyrian minorities present in their territory.

Syria Defense