Russia reorganizes its strategy in Syria’s south

DARAA, Syria (North Press) – Russia is trying its best to strengthen the Syrian government to reassert its control over southern Syria most notably Daraa governorate, the birthplace of the protests against the Syrian government.  

Russia helped to disband all of the military formations under the opposition factions, attached them with the settlement agreement and then with the Syrian government forces. Accordingly, Russia transferred the subordination of the Eighth Brigade, which was affiliated with the Fifth Corps, to the Military Intelligence of the Syrian government, specifically to 265 Branch located in Damascus.

Sources close to the Eighth Brigade told North Press that Russia asked the leader of the Eighth Brigade to send his fighters to fight alongside the government forces in its battles against the Islamic State Organization (ISIS) in the Syrian Desert as the government forces was reported to have heavy loses.

The sources quoted the Eighth Brigade leadership as saying the leadership refused to engage its fighters in the fight in the Syrian Desert adding the forces only perform service in Daraa governorate and in Salma military camp in Latakia governorate. 

As’ad Awad al-Zo’ebi, a military expert and an analyst, told North Press that Russia desperately need to eliminate the Eighth Brigade. If the Eighth Brigade goes to fight in the Syrian Desert, Russia will get rid of it as well as of ISIS. And if it refused or join Iranian-backed militias, this will be a pretext to arrest its fighters by the security forces.  

The Eighth Brigade refused to join the fight in the Syrian Desert. However, there is a possibility that some fighters within the Brigade are obliged to go; those who are stranded. They cannot protect themselves because they are wanted by the Syrian government forces which will send them to the compulsory army service and reserve, al-Zo’ebi said.    

Al-Zo’ebi pointed out that if the Eighth Brigade refused the Russian orders, the leaders of the Brigade might be assassinated the same way previous leaders were murdered. This means they have no choice or some of them might evade.  

Concerning the probable scenario, al-Zo’ebi said lifting the Russian cover from the Brigade completely and make it subordinate to the Syrian government forces to ”barter the fighters” will probably assign them to fight their blood brothers in Daraa or to be mercenaries to fight outside Syria. All possibilities are open. 

Al-Zo’ebi stressed that the goal of all the pressures practiced on the Eighth Brigade is to eliminate every name or presence related to it in Daraa and end its continuation as one military formation.

A fighter of the Eighth Brigade, on condition not to disclose his name, told North Press that they have not earned their salaries since April 2021. 

“The fighters are stick to fight alongside the Brigade in order to protect themselves and their families from being arrested by the Syrian government forces,” the fighter said.   

The Syrian government forces asked fighters of the Eighth Brigade to join the settlement agreement kicked off in early September 2021.  

The government forces asked the fighters to hand over their personal guns, but leaders of the Eighth Brigade refused then. So, the Russian Military Police intervened and asked fighters of the Brigade to hand over their personal guns to the leaders of the Brigade in Busra al-Sham in the eastern countryside of Daraa and the fighters agreed to do so. 

Reporting by Ihsan Muhammad