Edited by Desi Tzoneva
Tehran tries to achieve re-organisation of the Syrian army. Not long ago, the Commander of the elite Al-Quds unit of the Army of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), General Qasem Soleimani, again presented his proposals on this subject to the Syrian Minister of Defence, General Fahd Jassem al-Freij, and the Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, in Damascus.
The Iranian project envisages the creation of two main and independent-from-one-another structures that would submit to the Co-ordination Committee.
- The first structure should almost be a copy of the Iranian IRGC and include the 4th Armoured Division, which is now commanded by General Talal Makhlouf. It would include land forces, navy and air units.
- Other units of the Syrian armed forces should form the second structure.
- A single structure of the auxiliary forces, such as the Iranian Basij, should be created on the basis of the irregular armed militias.
Naturally, this idea has not found a warm response in Damascus. The top military command of the Syrian armed forces is in opposition to the Iranian proposals believing that in this case, the army will turn into an incomprehensible appendix and a maintenance unit of the new Syrian analogue of the IRGC, as this had happened in Iran.
Why is all this necessary for Tehran, especially, against the background of the fact that Iranians try to lobby the same ideas in Iraq? And everywhere, at first, the Shia elite meet these proposals in a friendly way, but then they start to strongly inhibit these reforms of the armed forces.
Iran’s proposals have a double meaning.
- The IRGC management seeks to create overseas branches of the organisation, whose command structure will be in a ‘dense orbit’ of the IRGC.
- If one takes into account the arguments which the new Chief of Joint General Staff of Iran, Mohammad Bagheri, has presented to the leader of Hezbollah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, in Lebanon, the IRGC is going to establish the ‘rapid deployment force’ on the basis of the Lebanese Hezbollah and new structures of the Syrian and Iraqi analogues of the IRGC. The new ‘rapid deployment force’ will be used by Tehran abroad during its global confrontation with the Sunnis and, primarily, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
It would be difficult to say that the Shia elite in Baghdad and Damascus really like such a prospect. Moreover, in this case, the local elite do not want to stay without reliable army units in their own countries. For example, the Bashar al-Assad regime has its own ‘praetorian guard’ – the 4th Armoured Division, which is free of any influence. Nobody wants to change it to a dubious variant of the Syrian IRGC in consideration of the dominant role of Iran in Damascus.
Moreover, the IRGC could not clearly prove that its scheme of the armed forces is more effective on the battlefield than the classical regular army. The Iranian IRGC could not contra-pose anything intelligible in the organisation of staff work, as well as in conducting battle actions on the battlefield for the anti-Assad forces.