Over recent weeks there has been an increase in conscription to regime-allied military formations from among the population of Daraa Governorate, with each formation seeking to gain the largest number of recruits.
In the context of a reconciliation arrangement agreed with the Syrian regime in July, pro-government military formations have also given assurances to locals who have accepted the settlement, particularly military reserves or those retired from service.
“4th Division”, Serving in the Southern Region
One of the pro-regime military bodies into which locals are being drafted is the “4th Division”, which has promised recruits that service will be restricted to Syria’s southern region, unlike the Syrian Army’s regular service.
The “4th Division” has established two training centres in the region, according to Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Daraa. The first of these is located in al-Muzayrib town and the second in Zayzoun; their initial course was completed on 9 October, with soldiers then being deployed across southern areas.
Among the conditions binding upon reconciled locals is the handing over of weaponry in exchange for receiving a salary and weekly days off. Locals also receive identification documents allowing for safe passage within Syria as part of the settlement, according to Enab Baladi’s correspondent.
“5th Corps”, Affected by Refused Service
Another military formation is the “5th Corps”, which is under the direct control of the Russian military. This body is led by the former opposition commander Ahmad al-Aouda in the eastern region (Nassib, Saida, and Busra al-Harir), and Abu Marshad al-Bardan (the former commander of the al-Mu’taz Billah opposition faction) in the western region (Tafas, Dael, and Abta).
The “5th Corps” has experienced a substantial amount of enrollment among locals from the al-Badiya region. However, the refusal of militants from Daraa’s western region to join the regime’s ranks – and the militants’ consequent transferal to Idlib Governorate – has meant that some of the “5th Corps” western units have disbanded, with units remaining primarily in the east.
Over the past two months, clear competition has emerged between the “4th Division” and “5th Corps” for the recruitment of militants who have agreed to reconciliation.
The “5th Corps” was formed in late 2016 at the order of the Russian military. Russia considered the formation to be a counterpart to Iran-backed militias in Syria in acting as support units for Assad’s forces. The Corp subsequently made advances at the expense of rebel factions, with the support of Russian weaponry.
In addition to these, other military departments have emerged which are recruiting local militants, including the regime’s Military Security and Air Intelligence divisions.
“Hizbullah” Enters the Scene
There is also the case of factions appearing over recent weeks in Daraa’s eastern region which are affiliated to the Lebanese “Hizbullah” organisation, according to Enab Baladi’s correspondent. These factions are reportedly offering recruitment incentives to local militants, including the possibility of remaining stationed in the governorate. The factions are also offering financial incentives, such as double the salary which the 4th Division and 5th Corps are providing.
There is no exact information currently available regarding the number of recruits who have joined each of these factions, as information is classified on grounds of being “military”.
Russia is attempting to form a military force in support of Assad’s regime as an attempted counter-weight to the numerous and influential Iran-backed military factions in Syria.