Northern Syria: “Security Squares” manage SDF and regime interests
Enab Baladi – Khaled al-Jeratli
The security square run by the Syrian regime in the northeastern city of al-Hasakah has returned to the forefront again after armed clashes sparked by disputes between the Syrian regime forces and its auxiliary National Defense Forces about ten days ago, which led to deaths and injuries.
These armed confrontations ended with the killing of the National Defense commander, Abdul-Qader Hamo, according to photos published on social media sites, said to be from his home next to Tishreen Park in the middle of the security square.
The confrontations that caused an exodus of civilians towards the areas controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) surrounding the “square” were not the first of their kind.
Unrest always recurs in this area of al-Hasakah, given that it is the only regime point within a wide geographical area controlled by the Kurdish-led forces.
With the recurrence of the problems in the security square in al-Hasakah and the same in another similar square in the city of Qamishli, it has become questionable why the regime clings to this area, and the SDF allows it to remain at the same time.
What do the “security squares” include?
The name “security square” has been given to many areas in Syria controlled by Syrian regime forces. These squares are often in city centers where government buildings and security detachments are located, such as the security square in the Kafr Sousa neighborhood in Damascus, which includes several intelligence branches, such as Branch 215 and Branch 227.
It also includes the Military Records Department, as well as another security square in the Rawda neighborhood in the center of the capital, Damascus, where security detachments and military checkpoints surround the Syrian National Security Administration building, which was targeted by the opposition in 2012, resulting in the killing of prominent figures, including the Minister of Defense, and Assef Shawkat, deputy defense minister and the brother-in-law of the regime’s head Bashar al-Assad.
Samer al-Ahmad, a research fellow at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, told Enab Baladi that the regime controls two areas in al-Hasakah, each of which is called a security square, but in reality, they are not security squares.
Al-Ahmad, who hails from al-Hasakah governorate, added that the regime actually controls a group of neighborhoods in the center of the city and another in Qamishli, in which civilians live and which contains government service institutions such as the governorate building, in addition to colleges from Al-Furat University.
The squares also include security headquarters, such as a detachment for Military Security, others for Political Security, State Security, Criminal Security, and a branch of the Baath Party, in addition to small headquarters for Iranian militias, known locally as “Saraya al-Khurasani.”
According to al-Ahmad, these Iranian militias own three headquarters, which are locally called “Al-Barad al-Aali,” the Post Office, and “the Train Station headquarters” in the city center.
The think tank’s fellow said that these Iranian militias are mainly led by Iraqi and Syrian figures and are known as “Saraya al-Khurasani.”
The security squares also include places where members of the regime forces are stationed.
The influence of the Syrian regime cannot be limited to what are known as the security squares in al-Hasakah and Qamishli, according to al-Ahmad, as its forces are stationed in a number of villages south of the city of Qamishli, which is not shown in maps distributing influence.
Russian and regime forces are also stationed at Qamishli Airport, and the regime controls Jabal Kawkab, which includes what is known locally as the “Kawkab Brigade” and the “154 Special Forces” Regiment, which is known as Fawj al-Shortah, or the “Police Regiment.”
At the end of 2021, the regime forces took over the area surrounding the Nusaybin border crossing between Qamishli and Turkish territory, but the crossing has been out of operation for years on both sides.
Why do these areas overlap?
The forces deployed in al-Hasakah governorate overlap, as the al-Shaddadi area, east of the governorate, includes American military bases, while the Qamishli Airport and the Tal Hamis base, where Russian forces are stationed, are located in the same countryside.
The Syrian regime forces control the previously mentioned areas, and forces from the army’s border guards are stationed at some guard points on the border with Turkey, but the area is controlled by the SDF, as it has the greatest geographical control over it, with the support of the US-led International Coalition forces.
The research fellow at the Omran Center, al-Ahmad, told Enab Baladi that Russian forces are stationed in the region in implementation of the terms of the “Sochi” agreement signed with Turkey in 2020, with the aim to de-escalate conflict in northern Syria.
Iranian forces are naturally stationed as an extension of Iranian influence in the region, which is of strategic importance to it as Iran seeks to secure a new supply line towards Syria, close to the Iraqi border.
Iran’s interest in the region lies in its attempts to win the loyalty of the tribes against the American forces deployed mainly in al-Hasakah, Deir Ezzor, and Raqqa.
Since the Iranian militias entered the region, the drug trade has flourished, and it is one of the Iranian goals throughout its influence.
Anas Shawakh, a research fellow at the Jusoor Studies Center and a resident of the eastern region of Syria, told Enab Baladi that the spread of the regime in the region is part of the security coordination that took place between the Syrian regime and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in 2012, which formed the backbone of the SDF when it was founded in 2015.
He added that the regime withdrew from most of the countryside of al-Hasakah at that time, especially the Kurdish areas, and allowed the YPG to deploy there, but at the same time, it mainly maintained its positions in the cities of Qamishli and al-Hasakah.
Shawakh considered that the regime’s spread in the region is a manifestation of its continued control over al-Hasakah, which is an important part of the region that is almost completely outside its control.
The research fellow specializing in the affairs of northeastern Syria believes that the regime used these areas as a launching pad for security operations, gathering information, and putting pressure on the United States, which supports the SDF in the region.
Exchange of influence
The Syrian regime’s relationship with the SDF is considered thorny in some of its aspects, as the two sides share military points in areas of the north and east of Aleppo governorate and on the contact lines with the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) northwest of al-Hasakah, while they are fighting in other areas of Deir Ezzor and Qamishli.
Just as the regime has small geographical areas within the SDF-held areas in al-Hasakah, the SDF has similar areas in the areas controlled by the regime in the city of Aleppo, as the latter controls the Sheikh Maqsoud and Ashrafieh neighborhoods on the northern outskirts of the city.
The two sides exchange restrictions and control on these areas as the regime tightens its noose on the Kurdish neighborhoods in Aleppo from time to time, and the SDF exchanges the same moves with regard to the security squares in al-Hasakah.
The SDF extends its areas of control in Aleppo through exchange with the regime, as the latter brings quantities of flour and fuel towards Sheikh Maqsoud, and the SDF exchanges it with the same step in the security squares in al-Hasakah.
Ibrahim Kaban, Kurdish researcher and director of the Geostrategic Network for Studies, told Enab Baladi that the existence of areas controlled by the Syrian regime inside al-Hasakah and Qamishli is due to the exchange of influence with the SDF in the city of Aleppo.
Kaban added that the SDF deals with its regime areas from the point of view that it is a way of bartering to pass aid to the areas under its control in the city of Aleppo, which includes about 150,000 displaced people from the city of Afrin.
He added that the aid and resources coming to the region are mainly related to understandings and exchange of interests between the SDF and the regime regarding the areas besieged by each other.
Despite the necessity of expelling the regime from al-Hasakah due to the problems it raises, according to Kaban, the SDF cannot take a step of this kind because it will have a negative impact on the Sheikh Maqsoud and al-Shahba neighborhoods in Aleppo.
Research fellow, Anas Shawakh, for his part, believes that the presence of areas similar to the security squares in al-Hasakah governorate, on the other side in the city of Aleppo, run by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the YPG is a factor in the exchange of deployment, and these small deployment spots in both regions are no less important than the other spots regarding the entity to which it belongs.
Manbij and Tal Rifaat
A few kilometers away from the SDF-controlled neighborhoods inside Aleppo, there are larger forces’ control areas north of Aleppo, separating the areas of Turkish influence in the northern countryside of Aleppo from the regime’s areas of control in the governorate itself.
This strip includes the cities of Manbij and Tal Rifaat, which Turkey has been looking towards for years, and aspires to launch a new military operation targeting the presence of the SDF in them.
SDF fighters are deployed alongside units of the Syrian regime in the two cities in a more dense manner than in eastern Syria, as it is almost the largest military force of the Syrian regime in this region, but they are constantly referred to as SDF-controlled areas.
The Russian military bases deployed in the region prevent the Turkish army from advancing towards them, as Russian experts are stationed at the Menagh military airport north of Tal Rifaat, specifically on the line separating the areas of influence.
The Turkish army forces always bomb Tal Rifaat and Manbij, and in many cases, these attacks resulted in the killing and wounding of soldiers from the Syrian regime forces in the area in which they targeted the SDF, which Turkey considers an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed on its “terrorist lists.”
With the recurrence of Turkish military operations against the SDF in the region, the Kurdish forces were forced to conclude an alliance with Russia to establish a military base at the Menagh military airport north of Tal Rifaat, announcing the cessation of the Turkish advance at the expense of the SDF in the region.
From time to time, rumors spread on social media about the withdrawal of Russian forces from Tal Rifaat and its surroundings to facilitate the entry of Turkish forces into the region, but the Syrian regime, Russia’s main ally, quickly comes out to deny this information.
if you think the article contain wrong information or you have additional details Send Correction
- Between four ruling powers: Economic policies threaten cotton season in Syria
- New military merger increases factionalism and puts a foothold for HTS in Aleppo
- Syria's bread prices consume employees’ salaries and add new burdens on students
- Will France’s international arrest warrant oblige UAE to arrest al-Assad during the Climate Summit?
- Israel, Iran: Two wars with different engagement rules in Syria