The Struggle for Control of Southern Syria

(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University) Dr. Carmit Valensi and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel - In the summer of 2018, the Assad regime regained control over southern Syria, as Russia promised it would keep Iranian forces away from the area. Most residents of the south, who had previously joined the rebels, were not expelled to Idlib in northern Syria; they were recruited by local security forces obedient to the Assad regime. In Daraa province, with a million mostly Sunni residents, local leaders now enjoy a degree of autonomy in managing daily life. Quneitra province adjacent to Israel, with 90,000 mostly Sunni residents, features a Syrian army and Hizbullah presence. Suwayda province, with 500,000 mostly Druze residents, is under the control of local Druze groups. Yet there is a growing presence of pro-Iranian groups. Frequent clashes between groups under Iranian influence and those affiliated with Russia indicate growing competition. Iran aims to deepen the grip of its proxies in Syria. However, the U.S. policy of "maximum pressure" on Iran, as well as continual Israeli attacks, have slowed the pace of Iran's consolidation. Hizbullah forces currently active in southern Syria include its advisers in the Syrian army, and the Golan File Unit under direct Hizbullah command, which is establishing terrorist cells comprising local Syrians. Carmit Valensi manages the Syria research program at INSS, where Udi Dekel is the managing director.

2020-12-17 00:00:00

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