Wed 14 Nov 2018

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As-Suwayda: Changes in the “National Defence” Command Head Southern Syria’s Battle

National Defence troops in the As-Suwayda desert – June 22, 2018 (National Defence, Facebook)

National Defence troops in the As-Suwayda desert – June 22, 2018 (National Defence, Facebook)

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The last week’s changes in the leadership of the “National Defense,” supporting Assad’s forces in As-Suwayda, have triggered a number of questions, especially that they synchronized to the approaching military operation in the adjacent Daraa and the massive military troops that Assad’s forces have mobilized at the governorate’s borders.

The Syrian regime has allocated the command of these forces to Major Watheq Wajih Ghanem, as a successor for the Brigader General Imad Saqr, Abu Said, and the major Ayman Kayed, Abu Fa’our, as a deputy commander of the As-Suwayda’s center.  “Suwayda24” Network has mentioned that the tow officers are from the As-Suwayda governorate.

The “National DefenCe” and the Shelling Targeting As-Suwayda

In the past a few years, the “National Defence” in As-Suwayda was linked to Rasheed Saluom, for he was the first commander of the forces. Saloum is a civilian business man and a close friend to the former director of the Military Security Branch Wafiq al-Naser, who are both partners in a number of investments in the governorate.

Saloum was insulted in the Shaikh Whaid al-Balous’, the leader of ” Masheikh al-Karame,” who was assassinated in 2015, guest room, after he accused al-Balous’ men of kidnapping then killing Shebli Janood, a “Baath Party” iconic figure in the governorate. He was then slapped on the face and expelled from the guest room by Whaid al-Balous’ son.

In November 2017, Saloum was dismissed from his position to be assigned to Colonel Hekmat Ja’far, who was followed by Imad Saqr to be dismissed only two weeks later, thus triggering a series of questions on the part of the governorate’s activists about the reason behind these changes in correspondence with the beginning of Southern Syria’s battle.

Activists have related the changes to the mortar shells that once again started to hit the governorate, leading to deaths among civilians while the Syrian regime pointed the finger of blame at those it calls “terrorists” in the eastern countryside of Daraa.

The civil activist and journalist Abdallah (who preferred not to mention his full name for security reasons), and who is based in As-Suwayda and is informed of the formation’s structure, accused the members of the “National Defence” of targeting the area, particularly because they were trained on launching mortar shells in Iran, as he put it. He also expects that the dismissed commander has refused to implement an order of targeting the governorate with mortar shells, especially that his reputation among people is not “bad.”

As-Suwayda stopped being a destination for mortar shells since the battle of al-Tha’leh Military Base in 2015. Back then, the regime accused the Bedouin, in al-Mequas, eastern As-Suwayda, of the mortar shells, which was an implicit recognition that the mortar shells could not achieve their range if launched from Daraa. In addition to this, al-Balous’ fighters, at the time, spread in the mountains, searched the area and documented the sources of the shells, as belonging to “Regiment 44,” in the north-east of the major al-Qanawat road, at the heart of the city.

 

The “National Defence” Was Trained in Iran

The “National Defence” in As-Suwayda passed through many stages. Less than a year following the break out of the Syrian revolution, in January 2012, the Syrian regime announced the creation of the “National Defence” militia in Syria. The formation process started in the city by offering its troops certain advantages and alluring young people to join it. Then, it started functioning within the borders of the governorate, prior to providing the troops with financial intensives to fight out of the governorate. The salary of the volunteers, who served out of the governorate, was 100% the double of the salary given to members allocated to keep the governorate’s internal peace.

Some of the “National Defence” troops received training in Iran, according to activist Abdallah, who confirmed to Enab Baladi that a relative of his, one of the “National Defence” members, has travelled with a group of his colleagues to Iran in 2013, to be trained on using a number of weapons; the travel and residency costs were all covered, in addition to a financial compensation.

Thanks to the great Iranian support, the number of the people who joined the forces increased and the militia started to organize its financial sources, after which Tehran started calling on the Syrian regime, through the general commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, in November 2017, to legalize the status of the “National Defence.”

“President Bashar al-Assad recognizes the importance of the National Defence, and for sure will legalize it in Syria to face the futuristic threats,” Jafari said.

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