Tehran has proposed a major plan to the Syrian government to reform its military along the lines of Iran’s.
The high command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, or Pasdaran, recently presented its proposals for a profound reorganisation of the Syrian Army to General Fahd Jassem al-Freij, the Syrian defence minister, and the military chief-of-staff General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub. The strategic plan, which was presented to the authorities in Damascus by the Pasdaran’s General Qassem Suleimani, was developed after several visits by high-ranking Iranian officials to Syria and Russia, the other unflinching supporter of the regime in Damascus, in June and July. According to our sources, the Iranian project involves the creation of two major and mutually autonomous military entities joined by a coordination committee. They would also be supported by a large-scale militia force.
The first branch of the army would replicate the structure of the Pasdaran and would be built upon the existing Republican Guard, which includes the 4th armoured division commanded since January by General Talal Makhlouf, joined by the army, navy and air components.
The second branch would contain the rest of the regular armed forces. However there is already some disagreement in Damascus about the proposal. While President Bashar al-Assad’s brother Maher al-Assad, who has commanded the military operations since the beginning of the conflict, is in favour of the proposed reform, the defence minister and the military top brass are not so keen on it. They fear that only the second branch will be capable of deploying all over the country. In Iran, the regular army, headed by General Atallah Salehi, has become a suppletory army for the Pasdaran.
The supporting militia force would be based upon Iran’s Bassidjis, which consist of volunteers allied to the regime. The Syrian force would incorporate the 25 principal non-regular forces currently operating in support of Damascus. The matrix is set to be the National Defence Force, commanded by General Hawach Mohammad, joined by groups of foreign fighters.