The Syrian regime is making efforts to exert control over security companies, particularly those with ties to foreign entities funded by Russia, Iran, or Syrian companies closely associated with them. These efforts involve amending the Security Companies Law, which enhances the regime’s ability to influence and acquire these entities, often through specific agreements with its Iranian allies.
The People’s Assembly has approved a draft law amending the Protection and Guarding Companies Law, which was established by Legislative Decree No. 55 of 2013. This amendment prohibits private protection and guarding companies from engaging with foreign companies or operating as a branch of an Arab or foreign company. Furthermore, the draft law specifies certain conditions for workers and guards within these companies, requiring them to be Syrian nationals over 18 years of age, as reported by SANA.
In 2013, the regime introduced a law that allowed for the licensing of protection and guard services companies. This move aimed to privatize the security sector and has since led to a surge in the number of private security companies, particularly after 2017. The need for an expanded security presence became apparent as the Syrian regime regained control over substantial parts of the country and encountered increased movement between governorates, necessitating the use of companion and protection companies. This information is according to a study released by the Middle East Pathways Center.
The study categorizes the approximately 75 licensed security companies into five main groups based on their owners and managers:
- Companies owned by independent businessmen.
- Companies associated with military intelligence and inherited from former militias.
- Companies with close ties to Rami Makhlouf.
- Companies closely connected to Iran, working on behalf of the Fourth Division Security Office.
- Subsidiary Russian companies responsible for safeguarding oil, gas, and phosphate fields.
Forced to sell
The primary objective behind these new amendments is to exert pressure on Russian companies, such as Wagner, which have entered into contracts for the protection of Russian economic interests. These amendments compel Russian security companies to comply with the regime’s requirement to sell their assets to individuals with close ties to the Syrian govrnment.
Under these amendments, Russian security companies are obliged to accept the sale of their assets at a price determined by the regime within a specified timeframe. Consequently, the regime can acquire these companies, along with all their equipment, at relatively lower prices than they might otherwise command in the open market.
Preparation for militia integration
The new amendment can be interpreted as a part of the regime’s broader strategy to showcase internal security stability. This strategy is implemented in coordination with Iran to integrate Iran’s local militias into the government’s armed forces while ensuring their loyalty to Iran and the pursuit of its interests. According to Wael Alwan, a researcher at the Jusoor Center for Studies, this approach extends to security companies that maintain a Syrian “national” appearance, ostensibly serving the interests of the regime’s allies while prioritizing loyalty to the regime itself.
The control exerted over these security companies is indicative of the regime and its allies’ ambitions to dominate land routes and companion services. The full acquisition of these companies may suggest a Syrian cover, but in reality, it remains firmly within the regime’s agreements and partnerships with its allies.
Alwan notes that Wagner was quickly assimilated into Syria, preventing it from exhibiting any form of rebellion or independence. Even local companies that previously cooperated with Wagner have undergone transformation, either through internal reorganizations or by coming under the influence of forces loyal to the Russian Ministry of Defense. Companies that were once aligned with Wagner, such as Qaterji, have been replaced by more loyal and disciplined local counterparts.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.