First Published: 2013-01-21

 

Watchdog accuses Iran of helping Syria build paramilitary force

 

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says Assad's regime has put together new paramilitary force of men, women, some trained by Iran.

 

Middle East Online

Guerilla tactics to win guerilla war

BEIRUT - President Bashar al-Assad's regime has put together a new paramilitary force of men and women, some trained by key ally Iran, to fight what is now becoming a guerrilla war, a watchdog said Monday.

The force, dubbed the National Defence Army, gathers together existing popular committees of pro-regime civilian fighters under a new, better-trained and armed hierarchy, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The popular committees were originally formed to protect pro-regime neighbourhoods from rebels.

"The (regular) army is not trained to fight a guerrilla war, so the regime has resorted to creating the National Defence Army," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Most of the new fighters are members or supporters of the ruling Baath party, said Abdel Rahman. "They include men and women, and members of all the sects."

The new force is not connected to the pro-regime shabiha militia, which the army and security forces have deployed ever since the outbreak of an anti-regime revolt to help it suppress dissent across the country.

Members of the paramilitary force, like the popular committees before, will focus on fighting in their own neighbourhoods.

On Friday, Moscow's Russia Today reported on its website that the new National Defence Army was being set up to "defend districts against gunmen".

"The Syrian authorities are set to create ... a National Defence Army, parallel to regime forces, so that the (regular) army is freed up for combat," the website reported citing an unnamed official.

Abdel Rahman, whose Observatory relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground, said Iran was involved in building the paramilitary force.

"The paramilitary force includes an elite fighting force trained by Iran," Abdel Rahman said.

"Iran has provided training to the paramilitary force's commando fighters."

Iran, Damascus' key regional ally, staunchly backs Assad and in September 2012 said its elite Quds Force, which is tasked with carrying out operations outside the Islamic republic, was giving Damascus "counsel and advice".

On the ground, an activist said the new force was already active in the central province of Homs.

"The number of regime fighters in the province has swelled in recent days, as the National Defence Army has started to come into action," anti-regime activist Hadi al-Abdullah said via the Internet from the rebel-held town of Qusayr.

 

Syria Foreign Minister in Iran to discuss situation in Middle East

Nusra Front captures more US-trained rebels in northwestern Syria

Yemen retakes biggest airbase from rebels

'New PKK attacks' target security forces in southeastern Turkey

Mediterranean migrant deaths reach tragic milestone in 2015

Violence in Yemen pushes health system to the brink of collapse

Israel court orders extremist Jewish leader to be kept in detention

Suspect in Kuwait mosque attack admits affiliation with ISIS

Head of Taliban's Qatar office quits as leadership rift deepens

Amnesty accuses Sudan of 'war crimes' in South Kordofan

Officials in Damascus play down US warning to Syria regime

Turkish air strikes increase pressure on Iraq Kurdish leadership

British oil company investigated for Somalia corruption

EU to Turkey: Be proportionate in your response to PKK

Two Turkish soldiers killed in new PKK attack

Britain extends air strikes in Iraq by a year

US may take 'additional steps' to defend allied fighters in Syria

Israel ex-security chiefs to Netanyahu: Accept Iran deal as ‘fait accompli’

Turkey will do 'whatever necessary' in fight against militants

US agrees to ‘expedite’ arms sales to Gulf countries

President of Iraq Kurdistan vows to avenge Yazidi minority

PKK claims deadly suicide bombing against troops in eastern Turkey

Sudan rebels offered guarantees to attend talks

Pro-Hadi forces target rebel-held base as coalition forces enter Aden

Israel's president threatened over 'Jewish Terrorism' comments

French beach returns to public after departure of Saudi King

Syria army plane crashes in rebel-held town of Ariha

Iran bans newspaper owned by nuclear deal critic

More Yemen refugees look for shelter in Djibouti

Erdogan: Putin may give up on Assad

Yemen rebel leader says political settlement still possible

Egypt leader amends electoral law

Saudi king cuts short French Riviera holiday

Kerry in Qatar for talks on Iran nuclear deal

UAE prosecutor refers 41 people to trial on terrorism charges

Kerry to Middle East allies: Iran deal will make region safer

Egypt court again postpones verdict in retrial of Jazeera reporters

Al-Nusra Front releases video to show ‘capture’ of US-trained rebels

Israel faces mounting pressure after baby killing in arson attack

'PKK suicide attack' kills two soldiers in eastern Turkey

Egypt court postpones verdict on brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri

Immigration surpasses economy as major concern in Europe

Plane crash kills family members of Bin Laden

Iraq protesters vent anger over poor services

ISIS flexes muscles in eastern Libya