Throughout the Syria war, Iran has played a central role in establishing the Syrian militias operating alongside the Syrian regime’s regular army and army reserves. These militias are modeled after the Iranian Basij. Recently, a memo was circulated on Facebook ostensibly proving that the Syrian regime is transferring command and financial responsibility for some of these militias to Iran – reflecting the extent of Iran’s control in Syria.
The memo, which is dated April 11, 2017 and bears the signature of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in his capacity as commander in-chief of the Syrian armed forces, approves the recommendations of a committee responsible for regulating the activity of the armed Syrian forces operating in conjunction with Iran on Syrian territory.
The committee’s recommendations included a call for organizing the nearly 90,000-man-strong armed Syrian forces working in conjunction with Iran under an umbrella framework called the Local Defense Brigades, to operate across Syria under Iranian command and financial responsibility, “until the end of the crisis in Syria or until further notice.”
On May 2, 2017, a photo of the memo was posted on the Facebook page of the Manjab Tribe Brigade, Ra’d Al-Mahdi, a Syrian militia established recently with Iranian help and operating in the service of the Syrian regime. The text accompanying the photo of the memo shows that the brigades welcome the move and consider it an improvement in their conditions. Likewise, this Facebook page, as well as a pro-regime Syrian news website, published a photo of another official Syrian document that refers to the memo and the transfer of the Syrian militias to Iranian responsibility.
It should be noted that several days after the date on the memo, on May 1, 2017, a Syrian military delegation headed by Syrian Chief of Staff Ali ‘Abdallah Ayyoub visited Iran, and met with Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan and Deputy Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for Coordination Jamaluddin Aberoumand to discuss increasing military cooperation.
The following is a translation of the main points of the two official Syrian documents.
As noted, on May 2, 2017, the Facebook page of the Manjab Tribe Brigade, Ra’d Al-Mahdi published a photo of the memo, which is which is marked “No. 1455” and addressed to “the Honorable Commander in Chief of the Army and Armed Forces and President of Syria.” It states: “With Allah’s help, we will not disappoint you, heroes of Ra’d Al-Mahdi. We have promised and we have kept [our promise].”
“1. The Syrian operatives (civilians and military personnel) who are fighting alongside the Iranian side are to be incorporated in the Local Defense Brigades in the [various] districts as per to the following list:
District Mandatory service evaders Reserve duty evaders Deserters Civilians Persons whose status has been arranged Total in district Comments Damascus 4106 4824 600 9485 601 19616 Deraa 421 359 658 857 0 2295 Tartus 321 0 0 679 100 1100 Homs 980 1124 1127 4314 1506 9051 Hama 2144 2654 2549 3915 864 12126 Aleppo 3925 5687 1213 10241 4864 35930 Idlib 1123 211 279 2929 3487 8029 Ladhakia 790 302 477 3165 700 5434 Al-Raqqa 214 235 148 220 0 817 Deir Al-Zor 461 870
645 0 1976 Al-Hasakah 388 465 952 554 0 2359 Total 14873 16731 8003 37004 12122 88723
“3. Civilians working with the Iranian side who want to volunteer [to the militias] are to be incorporated in the Armed Forces – Popular Army on a two-year volunteer contract, regardless of the volunteer conditions that are implemented in the armed forces… The contracts should be renewed with the agreement of both sides, as per the following list:
“- Civilians working with the Iranian side – 37,004
- The Local Defense Brigades in the districts that are working with the Iranian side will remain under the command of the Iranian side until the Syria crisis ends or until further notice, in coordination with the Army and Armed Forces General Headquarters.
- Ensuring the supply of all fighting gear and meeting all material needs of the Syrian army personnel and civilians working with the Iranian side will remain the responsibility of the Iranian side after they are incorporated into the Local Defense Brigades in the districts, in coordination with the relevant parties.
Syrian Chief of Staff Ali ‘Abdallah Ayyoub and Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij approved the memo by appending their signatures to it on April 5, 2017, and Assad, in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the Army and Armed Forces, signed it on April 11, 2017.
Official Syrian Document: Do Not Arrest The Elements Working With The Iranian Side
Likewise, both the Facebook page of the Ra’d Al-Mahdi Brigades and the pro-regime Syrian news website Dp-new.com posted a photo of another official Syrian document, referring to the abovementioned memo concerning the transfer of the Syrian militias to Iranian responsibility. This supports the memo’s authenticity.
The document is a letter sent by Gen. ‘Adnan Muhriz ‘Ali, head of the Organization and Administration Department, on behalf of Syrian Chief of Staff ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Ayyoub, to the Ministry of Internal Security, General Intelligence Directorate, Air Force Intelligence Directorate, Political Security Directorate, Criminal Security Department, Immigration and Passport Administration, and the Military Police. The letter said: “As per the decision of the Commander in Chief of the Army and Armed Forces regarding Memorandum No. 1455 of April 4, 2017 and the decision of the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Deputy Prime Minister and the Defense Minister regarding Memorandum no. 1681 of April 21, 2017, we instruct you not to arrest [army evaders and deserters] working with the Iranian side who hold temporary documents [identifying them as members] of the Local Defense Forces, until their status is arranged…”