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Syria Today – Assad Names New Commander to Fight in Idleb

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Assad Names New Commander to Fight in Idleb

North Press reported that the Syrian government forces appointed on Tuesday Suhail al-Hassan, as the commander of the 14th Special Forces Division in the Syrian government forces.

Hassan was also assigned to be commander of the campaign against the Turkish-backed armed opposition factions aka the Syrian National Army (SNA) in Idleb Governorate, northwestern Syria.

Suhail al-Hassan, nicknamed Nemr (the Tiger), was born in 1970 and holds the rank of commander of elite 25th Special Mission Forces Division in the Syrian government forces. He has close ties to Russia and previously served as the commander of the Tiger Forces, affiliated with the government forces.

Hassan led numerous battles against SNA factions and the Islamic State (ISIS) in several Syrian cities. He has also served in various units of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces.

The Special Mission Forces is a rapid reaction force that received training in self-defence and military weapons from Russia. They are tasked with defending the areas controlled by the Syrian government in Aleppo Governorate, northwestern Syria, Damascus, and elsewhere against terrorist attacks.

The Special Forces consist of the 7th, 14th, and 15th Divisions, which are combat units carrying out combat missions and rapid interventions. Their work has increased during the Syrian war, and their personnel number up to 30,000.

Israel threatens to strike Iran directly if Iran retaliates over the attack in Syria

Israel’s foreign minister threatened Wednesday that his country’s forces would strike Iran directly if the Islamic Republic launched an attack from its territory against Israel, AP reported.

His comments came amid heightened tensions between the rival powers following the killings of Iranian generals in a blast at the Iranian consulate in Syria earlier this month.

“If Iran attacks from its territory, Israel will respond and attack in Iran,” Israel Katz said in a post on X in both Farsi and Hebrew.

Earlier Wednesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated a promise to retaliate against Israel over the attack on its consulate in Damascus.

Tehran holds Israel responsible for the strike that levelled the building, killing 12 people. Israel has not acknowledged its involvement, though it has been bracing for an Iranian response to the attack, a significant escalation in their long-running shadow war.

The strike killed Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior figure in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard who led the group’s elite Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria until 2016. The 11 others who died included six Revolutionary Guard members, four Syrians and a Hezbollah militia member.

Israel has attacked scores of Iranian-linked targets in Syria over the years with the apparent intent of disrupting arms transfers and other cooperation with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran. The Israeli army rarely comments on these attacks. Since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza began six months ago, there have been near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Hezbollah along the Israel-Lebanon border.

Media In Tehran Accuse Russia, Syria Of Betraying IRGC

Media and citizens in Iran have been discussing the potential involvement of Russia and Syria in providing intelligence to Israel regarding the locations of IRGC officers prior to a precision strike last week.

Speculations are arising amidst calls from Iranian hardliners for a rapid and decisive reaction to the Israeli strike on April 1, targeting the Islamic Republic’s Consulate in Damascus, resulting in the deaths of two top IRGC Quds Force generals and five other officers.

Meanwhile, Iranian officials and military commanders have maintained their stance that Iran will retaliate at a time of its choosing.

Conversely, reports in some Arab media outlets suggest that Iran might refrain from seeking revenge on Israel if Tel Aviv backs away from the notion of attacking Rafah in its conflict with Hamas.

In an editorial on April 8, Masih Mohajeri, the influential managing editor of Jomhouri Eslami daily, a newspaper that was founded by Ali Khamenei in 1979, asked: “Why Russia, which controls the Syrian airspace does not prevent air strikes on Iranian targets in Syria?” Also implicating Syria and possibly Iranian infiltrators in tipping off the Israelis, Mohajeri wrote: “We have had too many losses in Syria during the past months and this is certainly because of the treason by infiltrators.”

Since December, Israel has eliminated 18 high ranking IRGC officers in Syria, in what appears to be a systematic campaign to limit the danger of Iranian proxies on its borders. Almost all the IRGC generals and officers stationed in Syria and Lebanon are tasked with directing and coordinating a mixture of Afghan, Iraqi, Syria and Lebanese proxy forces.

Iranian politician Masih Mohajeri

“We had warned about this repeatedly during the past months, but no one seems to have heard the warnings. Have Iranian officials ever asked themselves why such attacks never take place against Russian forces in Syria and why Russia’s advanced air defense does not prevent Israel’s crimes against Iran?”Jomhouri Eslami wrote.

The editorial emphasized that slogans like “replacing fallen officers with fresh blood” overlook the significant investment Iran has made in the expertise, skill, and efficiency of the highly trained officers who were lost. The publication highlighted Iran’s robust intelligence and security capabilities, suggesting that these assets should be utilized to prevent such tragic losses in the future.

Advocating for a comprehensive review of Iran’s security apparatus, the editorial posed critical questions: “Instead of boasting after 

U.S.-led Coalition’s resolve to defeat ISIS weakened – Mazloum Abdi

Commander in Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mazloum Abdi, said the U.S.-led Global Coalition’s resolve to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) has weakened.

According to North Press, Abdi said in an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor that the conflict in Gaza is strengthening ISIS and distracting the Coalition from focusing on operations against the group.

“The conflict in Gaza has also boosted Daesh. It is distracting the anti-Daesh coalition and their focus on this region has diminished as a result,” he said.

Abdi pointed out the conditions for “an ISIS resurgence that would restore it to its former strength continue to exist,” adding the group continues to have a financial network and support in the region.

“We ought to be receiving far more financial support from our allies. The opposite is happening. Funds are shrinking. The US-led coalition’s resolve to defeat Daesh has weakened,” Abdi said.

“In the detention camps here in al-Hol, in Roj, new generations of even more radical ISIS militants, boys and girls, are maturing and planning their escape,” Abdi said.

The SDF’s commander in chief indicated that the lack of engagement by governments participating in the Coalition with the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), the economic crisis, and Turkish attacks on Northeast Syria are all factors exploited by ISIS.

The consequences of US weakness in Iraq and Syria

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) published a long article by Bradley Bowman and Cameron McMillan and published on April 10, 2024, which discusses the potential repercussions of perceived U.S. weakness in Iraq and Syria, particularly in the context of recent tensions and conflicts involving Iran, its proxies, and U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Following an Israeli strike in Damascus that resulted in the death of seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers, including a high-ranking commander, Iran’s Foreign Minister hinted at possible retaliatory attacks against U.S. forces in the region. This situation underscores the longstanding hostility between Iran and the U.S., particularly in Iraq and Syria, where Iran-backed militias have historically targeted U.S. military personnel.

The article outlines the strategic significance of the U.S. military presence in these countries, primarily aimed at countering ISIS and deterring Iranian influence. The authors argue that a hasty withdrawal of U.S. forces could bolster Iran’s regional dominance and facilitate an ISIS resurgence. They emphasize the importance of adequately arming and authorizing U.S. troops to defend themselves and retaliate decisively against Iranian aggression, citing recent attacks on U.S. personnel and facilities as evidence of the consequences of insufficient defense capabilities and restricted rules of engagement.

The piece concludes by highlighting the efficacy of a robust U.S. military response in deterring further attacks, as demonstrated by a significant reduction in Iranian proxy attacks following decisive U.S. military action in response to the killing of three American soldiers in Jordan. The authors advocate for the U.S. to maintain a strong defensive posture and the readiness to use overwhelming force to prevent Iranian aggression and protect American interests and personnel in the region.

Israeli And Turkish Airstrikes Are Killing And Injuring Syrian Soldiers

An article by Paul Iddon in Forbs, published on April 11, 2024, provided a detailed overview of the ongoing Israeli and Turkish airstrikes in Syria, highlighting their impact on Syrian soldiers and broader regional dynamics. 

The focus is on the significant increase in Israeli airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria, particularly since a major Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. These strikes have led to the deaths of numerous Syrian soldiers, primarily as collateral damage in attacks aimed at Iranian and Hezbollah assets within Syria. The most notable of these was a strike on Aleppo on March 29, which resulted in the deaths of 36 Syrian soldiers, marking the deadliest Israeli action in the country to date.

Aron Lund, a Syria expert, explains that the intensification of Israeli strikes aims to disrupt Iran’s military presence and arms shipments to Hezbollah. While the primary target of these operations is the Iranian military infrastructure, Syrian military facilities and personnel have frequently been caught in the crossfire due to their association with Iranian forces.

The article also addresses Turkish airstrikes in northern Syria, which have been conducted since 2016. Unlike the Israeli campaign, Turkey’s focus has been on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and associated Kurdish groups, which Ankara links to the PKK. While these strikes primarily target Kurdish forces, Syrian soldiers have also been killed or injured in the process, especially when operating in proximity to SDF positions or alongside Russian observers.

Despite the continuous airstrikes by Israel and Turkey, the Syrian government has not retaliated directly against either country. Lund suggests that the Syrian regime’s response has been restrained due to its relative military weakness and the complex geopolitical considerations involving Russia, Iran, and the potential for further escalation.

In summary, the Israeli and Turkish air campaigns in Syria have significantly affected Syrian military personnel, with the former focused on disrupting Iranian and Hezbollah operations and the latter targeting Kurdish forces. The lack of direct Syrian retaliation reflects the challenging strategic position of the Assad regime amidst ongoing regional conflicts.

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