What people know of the different intelligence branches in Syria differs depending on witnesses and their accounts. No report or extensive research has been previously conducted to address the activity of the Assad regime’s intelligence agencies. This report conducted by Zaman al-Wasl reveals the activity of each intelligence apparatus and its position inside the Assad authoritarian system. The report’s data was obtained by researching archives of more than 1.7 million arrest warrants.
According to the archives, the intelligence sector in Syria is divided into five main apparatuses: General Intelligence Administration, Military Intelligence Branch, Air Force Intelligence Branch, Intelligence Branch, and Political Security Branch.
Other divisions like the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and Military Judiciary complete the regime’s authoritarian system. The “authoritarian system” is far greater in size and scope than the intelligence system. The latter is limited to secret and public intelligence apparatuses, whereas the authoritarian system includes an unlimited number of apparatuses, civil directorates, military and semi-military institutions. The system also includes individuals who are recruited by the regime to watch the population in order to prevent any possible movement or activity against the regime. These can be school principals, village elders, a Baathist or a religious sheikh, a Muslim or Christian. All together, these people play small parts but offer big contributions, complimenting one another to sustain the repressive regime since it was engineered by former president Hafez al-Assad.
It is important to mention that these numbers are the criterion to judge the activity and involvement of any repressive apparatus subordinate to Assad regime. The numbers might or might not conform to the instilled perception of Syrians about any particular branch.
From the total number of 524,416 arrest warrants, over 30 percent were issued by Military Intelligence (more than 164,000 arrest warrants). The apparatus has absolute power in all fields and affairs inside and outside Syria, and all arrest warrants issued for foreign journalists emanate from military intelligence.
The second apparatus on the activity of intelligence is the Intelligence branch, responsible for more than 112,000 arrest warrants. It is worth mentioning that both the Military Intelligence Branch and Intelligence Branch are one apparatus with sub-divisions. The report separates the two as they are separated in the data within the regime’s archive.
It should be noted that the intelligence branch is the oldest and the main apparatus in the Military Intelligence. Theoretically, if we are to consider the Military Intelligence branch and the intelligence branch as a single apparatus, it would be responsible for 276,000 arrest warrants (more than half the total number of arrest warrants issued by the different branches).
There is a significant gap in activity between the Military Intelligence apparatus and the rest of the branches. The General Intelligence Administration has issued approximately 75,000 arrest warrants, followed by the Political Security branch with 71,000 arrest warrants. Surprisingly, the country’s notorious Air Force Intelligence is the least active of Assad apparatuses, issuing 19,000 arrest warrants.
The air force intelligence is not only the least active of the intelligence branches, but also lags behind another repressive apparatus; the Ministry of Interior, issuing nearly 20,000 arrest warrants. On the other hand, the Ministry of Defense has approximately 2,100 arrest warrants, 172 of them capital punishments in the field court.
The Ministry of Justice issued only two arrest warrants, whereas the Presidency of the Council of Ministers issued 45 arrest warrants. Interestingly, an apparatus like the Military Police, infamous for its repressiveness, has only issued 60 arrest warrants in the huge archive, whereas the Military Judiciary issued 1,036 arrest warrants.
The General Ranking
If we are to rank by the total number of warrants (arrest, travel ban, passport issue ban, entrance ban), the military intelligence branch would rank first, with 393,000 different arrest warrants. If we are to add the number of warrants issued by the intelligence branch (185,000 arrest warrants), then we have a huge number of 578,000 arrest warrants.
The General Intelligence Administration ranks second with 141,000 different arrest warrants, followed by the Political Security branch with 129,000 arrest warrants. Air Force Intelligence comes next with 33,000 different arrest warrants.
The Passports and Immigration Administration which reports to the Ministry of Interior has nearly 41,000 arrest warrants; in contrast, the Ministry of Interior has 45,000 different arrest warrants.
The total number of warrants issued by the Ministry of Justice is nearly 17,000 – half the number of the weakest intelligence branches and almost a third of the warrants issued by the Ministry of Defense.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.