New “settlement” agreement in Daraa… “Fifth Corps” will benefit most from it
Enab Baladi – Daraa
The Syrian regime’s security branches have been conducting new “settlements” in Daraa province, southern Syria.
They established two “settlement” operations centers, one in Busra al-Sham town in eastern Daraa countryside for the elements of the “8th Brigade” affiliated to the “Fifth Corps,” which was formed under Russia’s orders. The elements reviewed this center for two days on 7 and 8 September. While the second “settlement” center was set in the “Maysaloun” school in Daraa to receive all those required by the regime, and was called the “Maysaloun Reconciliation Center.”
A “settlement” with special terms for the “8th Brigade”
Last week, representatives of the regime’s security committee in southern Syria met with representatives of Russia and key leaders in the “8th Brigade,” led by the former commander in the “Free Syrian Army (FSA)” (the former leader of the “Youth of Sunna” faction), Ahmed al-Awda.
The assembled parties agreed to “a comprehensive settlement” for the “8th Brigade” elements and the officers and dissidents who joined it through the National Security Office (which oversees the work of the rest of the security apparatus), led by General Ali Mamlouk.
According to the new “settlement” agreement, hundreds of the “8th Brigade” members would be removed from the list of wanted people by the security services. The “8th Brigade” elements would also be granted freedom of movement without prosecution or arrest, according to what the researcher at the “European University” and the “Middle East” Institute, who specializes in South Syrian dynamics, Abdullah al-Jabasini, said to Enab Baladi.
The “settlement” highlights the role of the “8th Brigade” and attracts fighters
The new “reconciliation” agreement and security guarantees that were given to the “8th Brigade” members indicate two things, according to al-Jabasini.
The first indication is the variation in the degree of Russia’s commitment to secure protection for former opposition fighters in the areas included in the 2018 summer negotiations in Daraa.
Hence, this agreement contributes to the depiction of the “8th Brigade” as a military force and a mediator capable of providing protection.
This comes as opposed to the Central Negotiation Committee (the Central Committee of the western countryside and the Central Committee of Daraa al-Balad), which, despite the efforts of its members and popularity at the local level, lacks a similar role of that of the new “reconciliation” agreement. According to al-Jabasini, the Central Negotiation Committee is losing its role gradually.
According to al-Jabasini, the second idea is that, based on promises of comprehensive protection, the new “settlement,” which includes the “8th Brigade” fighters only, will attract many former opposition fighters to the brigade.
Many fighters consider the new “reconciliation” agreement in Busra al-Sham as a step to remove Russia’s “security blanket” from former opposition fighters elsewhere in Daraa province.
On the other hand, the former Daraa governor, Ali al-Salkhadi, questioned in his talk to Enab Baladi the reason for the regime’s new settlement for the elements of the “8th Brigade” led by al-Awda, despite having been under the previous agreement.
Al-Salkhadi thinks that there is a “new plot against the youth and residents of the Hauran region,” as per his expression.
According to the member of the Central Committee of Daraa al-Balad, lawyer Adnan Masalmeh, this “settlement” comes after the regime recognized the necessity to remove the names of the militants required by the security branches.
While the former head of the “Free Bar Association” in Daraa, lawyer Sulaiman al-Qarfan, told Enab Baladi that “the regime does not want to escalate with Russia’s backed “8th Brigade,” and “the agreement will not last long,” and that “the regime will break the agreement after the Russians’ position changes regarding the brigade.”
A member of the “8th Brigade” said to Enab Baladi that the new “settlement” came under Russian pressure exerted on the regime’s National Security Office, to eliminate all security lawsuits against the “Fifth Corps” elements, to facilitate their movement on checkpoints in Syria, because many of its elements remain required for the regime’s security branches.
The “8th Brigade” element continued saying that the “reconciliation” center witnessed a great number of visits by the brigade’s elements on 7 and 8 of September.
“Maysaloun settlement” aims to strengthen the “4th Division”?
In his talk with Enab Baladi, Masalmeh considered the new “settlement” center in Maysaloun as the creation of the “4th Division” of the regime’s forces, led by Maher al-Assad, the brother of the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, to accommodate those who wish to join it from military militants.
While another member in the “Central Committee,” who spoke to Enab Baladi on the condition of anonymity, denied the new Daraa’s “settlement” center’s linkage with the “4th Division,” because some of those who had been subject to the current “settlement” are not registered in the “4th Division,” besides women are included among them.
“Whoever tried the tried, will repent having tried”
Former Daraa governor, al-Salkhadi, began his talk with Enab Baladi by a proverb that says, “whoever tried the tried, will repent having tried,” describing the current “settlement.”
He said, since the 1960s, when Hafez al-Assad took power, after the so-called “8th March revolution” in 1963 and the “Corrective Movement” in 1970 to date, there is no single case in which the regime has “settled” or pardoned any political opposition.
Al-Salkhadi recalled the arrest of Major General Ahmed Sweidani, who came from Iraq after promises of his innocence from the regime; however, the regime imprisoned him for 25 years.
He also recalled how the regime treated Brigadier General Mohammed Omran and former Syrian President Noureddin al-Atassi.
According to al-Salkhadi, the regime “cannot be trusted and has no credibility.” He added, after the regime regained control on Daraa, the first it arrested and killed were the leaders who settled with it, such as “Abu Basil Abu Zeid,” and “Mashhour Kanakri,” although they helped it to enter some areas.
For al-Salkhadi, there are no guarantees for the previous or the current “settlement,” or trust among the parties.
He added the negotiating formation has not changed, whether officers and security forces from the regime, committees from the civilians or the Russian guarantor.
As for al-Qarfan, he confirmed that the regime did not respect any previous “settlement” agreement and will not respect future ones, considering that the current “settlement” is similar to “scattering ashes” and a pressure from Russia to absorb the intense situation and fury that dominated Daraa province.
Al-Qarfan added that the Russians are not serious about putting an end to the regime’s violations and the security chaos in Daraa.
A young man from Daraa talked to Enab Baladi on the condition of anonymity for security reasons said that young people in the city fear to settle due to their distrust in the security services, as every security branch in Syria is an independent country that does not recognize formal settlements.
The first “reconciliation” agreement in Daraa province was held in July 2018, following negotiations between the regime’s forces and “central committees” of civil-affairs officers from certain bodies, tribal leaders, and former FSA leaders under Russian mediation.
This agreement led to detainees’ release, settling operations, postponing military service, and the return of civil service to the city.
Nevertheless, the regime arrested more than 1,000 persons from those who settled their situations despite the agreement.
The “Fifth Corps” supervises the “settlements” in Daraa
The “Fifth Corps” acted as mediator and supervisor of “settlements” in different areas in Daraa province.
Last March, regime forces attacked the al-Sanamayn city in northern Daraa countryside, using tanks and artillery for the first time since the “settlement” agreement in the southern region in July 2018, and clashed with militants who rejected to settle and chose to remain in Daraa.
Back then, the regime’s forces surrounded the city’s western neighborhoods, until the “8th Brigade” intervened under Ahmed al-Awda’s leadership. Al-Awda resolved the conflict and imposed a truce that ended with the deportation of fighters to the Syrian north, and “settled” the situations of those who wished to remain on condition of surrendering their firearms.
The “Fifth Corps” role was not limited to mediation; for example, on 18 March, the corps withdrew the bodies of the regime’s forces who were attacked on a checkpoint in the Masaken Jleen area.
This coincided with the “Fifth Corps” supervision of another “settlement” in Nahta town, which ended with the delivery of 20 weapons in exchange for the release of regime detainees, and settling the situations for young people from the town.
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