Pro-Iranian and pro-Russian forces clash in Syria

The Tiger Forces, an elite formation of the Syrian government army, have clashed with the 4th Armored Division, the Turkish Anadolu Agency reported, citing sources in Syria. According to the news agency, the Tiger Forces are backed by Russia, whereas the tank division, which is commanded by Bashar al-Assad’s brother General Maher al-Assad, is backed by Iran. 

The encounter reportedly took place in Syria’s Hama province in the north-west of the country. Anadolu did not specify an exact date. 

Russia is trying to turn the Syrian army into a single structure with strong military leadership, and is betting on Suheil al-Hassan, commander of the Tiger Forces, observes a report by the Turkish Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Stuidies. Al-Hassan is popular among the soldiers and enjoys authority among the Alawi officers (Alawism is the branch of Islam which the al-Assad family adheres to). Aleppo and eastern Ghouta were recaptured by Syrian government forces under al-Hassan’s leadership. Other Syrian commanders, including Maher al-Assad, are opposed to al-Hassan acquiring greater influence, the report notes. 

“Local sources describe the conflict as an attempt to reduce Iran’s influence in the region,” Anadolu writes, noting that “many were wounded and killed” in the encounter. 

Der Spiegel also wrote about the conflict on 25 January. The German news magazine has a radio communication recording which is evidence of a conflict between “the Syrian divisions of two of Assad’s primary allies – Russia and Iran”. According to Der Spiegel, the encounter took place on Saturday 19 January and was won by the formation trained by Russian specialists. There is no precise information about the number of casualties, probably because “neither party wants to publicize the battles between the allies,” Der Spiegel observes. After the clash on 19 January, the situation has stabilized somewhat, but the two sides “continue to shoot at each other from time to time”. 

According to the German magazine, both Moscow and Tehran want to assert control over the Al-Ghab Plain in the northwest of Syria’s Hama province. The valley lies between the “native province of the Assad clan” and Idlib, the last stronghold of the anti-Assad forces.

 

  Iran, Russia, Syria, Lavrov, Aleppo

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