Ending reserve service in regime forces; Move to reduce financial, political pressure
Enab Baladi – Hussam al-Mahmoud
Military variables accompanying other political ones cast a shadow over the Syrian file in the past months, the most recent of which was the decision of the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, on July 17 to end retention for those in the reserve service and to end call up for military service for specific categories.
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said the “administrative order” will come into force on September 1 and includes the ranks of officers and reserve personnel whose actual reserve service has reached six and a half years or more until July 31.
Hussein Kouro, director of the Human Resources Department at the regime government, has linked the move to what he considered “improving field conditions, an increase in the number of enrollments, and an increase in completion rates, in a way that guarantees the combat readiness of the armed forces.”
According to Kouro, “administrative orders” are based on “objective” data and (military) conditions on the ground.
Assad’s order comes in conjunction with influential political changes in this regard, the most important of which is the Arab rapprochement with Damascus, which appeared clearly after the devastating Feb.6 earthquake and resulted in many visits and political and diplomatic meetings, leading to the regime’s return to the Arab League, and its participation in the May-19 Jeddah summit and attempts to advance the Amman Initiative to resolve the Syrian crisis.
Mohsen Mustafa, a fellow at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, told Enab Baladi that this step is partly motivated by an attempt to relieve pressure on societal carriers in regime-held areas, ruling out at the same time that it would carry messages to Arab countries, given that the issue is largely related to the rate of human completion of the regime forces.
According to Mustafa, the demobilization order and termination of reserve service do not reflect military stability in the full sense, rather it expresses a state of “sufficiency” with the enrollment of new numbers of recruits.
Mustafa ruled out that large numbers of military personnel would benefit from the decision as long as it is accompanied by conditions that do not apply to everyone, stressing that the decisions related to the military establishment of the regime are actual decisions at the same time.
On July 19, the Jusoor Center for Studies spoke of four indications related to ending the detention and summoning of those covered by the “administrative order.”
It can be summed up in the fact that the regime seeks to create a collective public opinion that pushes the targeted people in its regions to choose between performing military service and then leaving the country officially or leaving the country in an irregular way that turns them into legal persecution.
The Syrian think tank said the regime hopes to attract the category of those assigned to the service and those who fail to do so by illegal or legal means, such as “study postponement.”
Jusoor referred to the deterioration of the economic situation and the regime’s attempt to vent its craters with the cessation of major military operations, and the failure to announce statistics related to the decision indicates the small numbers of those covered by it and the weakness of its military and societal influence.
In addition, the military units that arose after the Russian intervention in September 2015 and operated on a system of contracts (the Fourth and Fifth Corps and the 25th Division) performed military tasks and operations carried out by the military units of the regime forces, in light of what they suffer from the disintegration of their human and technical organizational structure, with a tendency to enhance the combat capability of those forces.
Financial exhaustion; “On demand”
Military expert and former army officer Tareq Haj Bakri told Enab Baladi that the Assad regime is facing economic difficulties that weaken its ability to pay the salaries of the reserve recruits it keeps during the reserve service, they receive salaries equal to those of volunteers, despite the inadequacy of these salaries for those who receive them, such as for paying transportation fees, which made them an economic burden on the one hand, and a security burden on the other, given the long years of service without a specified time for demobilization.
The regime can use this step as a means to raise the morale of the citizens in the areas under its control due to the people’s complaints and their being forced to spend on their sons during the period of service and retention.
This step also benefits the regime by sending messages to the effect that security has returned and that its army is strong enough to extend its control on the ground, knowing that this long period of service is considered a “crime” against the soldier himself.
Al-Assad issued a decree in December 2022 amending the salaries of the military. The decree specified the salary of an officer with the rank of first lieutenant at 116,000 Syrian pounds.
($1=13200 SYP) according to the S-P Today website, which covers the trading rate of the Syrian pound to the dollar.
Officers at the top of the military hierarchy, with the rank of major general, receive between 270,000 SYP and 292,000 SYP (about $25), according to the military arrangement (Brigade 1, Brigade 2, Brigade 3).
The salaries of other military ranks range between the salary of the first lieutenant and major general, and it drops below that for the ranks of officers and members of the security forces.
The regime no longer needs large numbers of soldiers and recruits, which enables it to abandon some of them. Although the termination of reserve service may be temporary, they can be called up at any moment, others can also be called up, and reserve soldiers can be added, and their current demobilization puts them on call at any time to join again if the need arises.
Tareq Haj Bakri – Former Army Officer and Military Expert
Less than a year ago, al-Assad issued an “administrative order” on August 27, 2022, according to which he ended the retention of specific categories.
The decision at that time stipulated the termination of reserve service and the summoning of retained enlisted officers, retained enlisted students of all specializations, and reserve officers and students, for everyone whose actual reserve service amounted to one year or more until the 31st of the same month.
The “administrative order” also included the demobilization of enlisted officers and students joining compulsory service, starting from the date of their compulsory service termination.
And the termination of the retention and call-up to the ranks of officers and reserve personnel, and the invited invitees, whose actual service has reached six and a half years or more, until the 31st of the same month.
In addition to ending the retention of the ranks of retained reserve officers and personnel, and the enrolled invitees, born in 1983, whose actual reserve service amounted to two years or more until August 31, in addition to the later demobilization of those who complete two years of actual reserve service from these births.
A circular was also issued by the Ministry of Defense of the regime’s government on August 10, 2022, which included the dismissal of human doctors, dentists, and pharmacists who had completed compulsory service and an end to retaining those who were in reserve service, except for anesthesia, intensive care, and emergency specialists.
On May 10, 2021, a similar “administrative order” was issued, ending the retention and summoning of human doctors in the medical services department, whose reserve service amounted to two years or more, provided that their services would be dismissed according to the possibility.
The “order” included the ranks of officers and individuals whose reserve service period amounted to more than seven and a half years.
Last April witnessed many cases of mitigation of armed manifestations in the civilian and populated areas under the control of the regime, specifically in Damascus.
Several concrete barriers (large stones used to bisect two-lane roads that were used by regime forces to create security checkpoints) have been removed in vital and high-density neighborhoods in the capital.
Among those barriers were those on the Beirut road, all the way to the Dama Rose Hotel, and a barrier on the Mezzeh highway, passing in front of the Damascus University branch gathering in the area.
There is a barrier that has been removed from the Bab Musalla area, another at the end of the President’s (Al-Raeis) Bridge, and the Air Command checkpoint. Most of them are branching roads and meet in the Umayyad Square near official and sensitive buildings, such as the General Authority for Radio and Television and the General Staff Command.
In the spirit of “Initiative”
On July 10, the joint final statement issued by the joint ministerial meeting for the strategic dialogue between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Russia urged the Syrian regime to adhere to the “Jordanian Initiative,” which includes a clause that requires announcing the end of military operations in the country, and starting to take the necessary steps to reach a comprehensive solution for the “crisis.”
The statement also stated that the ministers “expressed their hope that the Syrian government would take the initiative and start taking all necessary steps to reach a comprehensive solution to the crisis.”
Commenting on the “Step-for-Step” approach on which the initiative is based, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat on June 12 that “Syria has taken hundreds of steps regarding what is required of it, while it has not received any step from the other parties.”
According to what Al-Majalla magazine published about the “Jordanian Initiative” for a solution in Syria, the third phase “in the long run” included a demand for the regime to end military operations related to the “armed conflict,” with the exception of combat training against parties designated by the United Nations.
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