The military has been the backbone of Syria’s government for most of the country’s history. The civil war that broke out in 2011 has only increased the importance of the armed forces, even as they have decayed structurally.1 As active fighting ebbed in recent years, President Bashar al-Assad has moved to reorganize his war-torn security apparatus, firming up his grip on irregular militias and promoting a new generation of officers to the top ranks.2
Assad is unquestionably number one in the military hierarchy—he personally holds the combined offices of president, Syria’s top-ranking general, and supreme commander of the armed forces. Last month, however, Assad picked two little-known generals to fill the symbolic number-two and -three positions.
On April 28, Assad issued a decree naming Maj. Gen. Ali Mahmoud Abbas to the joint office of defense minister and deputy supreme commander, succeeding Lt. Gen. Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, who had held the post since 2018.3 (See the table below for an explanation of Syrian officer ranks.) Two days later, Assad also raised Abbas’s rank to match that of his predecessor, and made another significant appointment: Maj. Gen. Abdelkarim Ibrahim was installed as head of the general staff, a position that had, bizarrely, been left vacant for four years.4
Syria’s military elite is almost impenetrably opaque, but it is still possible to tease some information out of these appointments. Since the 1970s, the Assad regime—first under Hafez al-Assad and then under his son, Bashar—structured the military’s top brass according to a particular pattern, balancing religious sects in senior positions for political reasons. This pattern seems to explain why Abbas was chosen over so many other senior officers. And although the chief of staff office was never as central to the Syrian military as it may be in other nations’ armed forces, its four-year suspension was clearly abnormal—a reminder of how badly Bashar’s regime has been mauled by eleven years of civil war. Conversely, the reactivation of the chief of staff position last month may facilitate renewed efforts at military reorganization, as Bashar works to streamline and stabilize his regime.
|Syrian Commissioned Officer Ranks|
|General||fariq (reserved for the president)|
|Lieutenant General, First Class||imad awwal (not currently in use)|
|Lieutenant, First Class||mulazem awwal|
The Hafez Era
The Assad regime was never a military dictatorship in the sense that the armed forces, as an institution, governed the country directly. But Bashar’s father Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria from 1970 to 2000, was a career air force officer who served as defense minister before seizing power in a coup.5 A sly, Machiavellian power hoarder, Hafez spent much of his thirty-year rule coup-proofing the regime, pitting security chiefs against each other and stacking the officer corps with members of his own family and minority religious sect, the Alawites.6
By a wide margin, however, most Syrians belong to the Sunni Muslim faith, whose adherents had historically dominated the country. The social tension created by the regime’s minoritarian character made it imperative for Hafez to appoint Sunni figures in public-facing senior positions, as a way to project diversity, appease Syria’s religiously conservative masses, and empower loyal strongmen capable of drawing a Sunni following into the regime’s orbit. In that way, Hafez ensured that, although Alawites predominated in the higher echelons, his regime retained some cross-sectarian appeal.
In civilian institutions, it was easily done. Hafez’s Ba’ath Party cast a wide net across society, and hundreds of thousands of Syrians of all faiths were hired as civil servants in the increasingly bloated state bureaucracy; the president also made sure to always choose Sunnis for top jobs like prime minister, foreign minister, and his two party deputies. But real power rested within the security apparatus and in the officer corps, where Sunnis were poorly represented.
Hafez al-Assad ensured that, although Alawites predominated in the higher echelons, his regime retained some cross-sectarian appeal.
Hafez tried to compensate for this poor representation by informally reserving some senior leadership jobs for Sunni officers, without reducing the vast Alawite overrepresentation inside Syria’s “deep state.” For example, although most top military jobs went to Alawite officers, Sunnis tended to be chosen for civilian security positions, such as the directors of the General Intelligence Department, the Political Security Directorate, and the Ba’ath Party’s National Security Bureau. But the centerpiece of Assad’s strategy was the offices of minister of defense and head of the military’s general staff—the country’s two most prestigious and publicly visible security jobs, both of which were held by Sunni Muslim associates of the president.
For nearly all of Hafez al-Assad’s rule, the Ministry of Defense was controlled by Lt. Gen. First Class Mustafa Tlass (1932–2017), while Lt. Gen. Hekmat al-Shehabi (1931–2013) served as chief of staff. Shehabi was finally sent into retirement in 1998, likely to clear the way for Bashar’s succession to the presidency two years later. Tlass remained in place to facilitate the father-to-son transition, only leaving office in 2004. Several of Tlass’s relatives continued to prosper in the regime’s higher echelons, though most were purged when the Assad–Tlass bond finally ruptured in 2011–12.7
In institutional terms, Tlass and Shehabi held positions crucial to the functioning of the Syrian armed forces, but their military and political influence was more limited than their titles suggest. In battlefield matters, many leading generals apparently bypassed the on-paper hierarchy to directly report to Assad; and the regime’s internal politics had more to do with personal clout and proximity to the president than with formal positions. Even though Tlass was a well-known public figure, dripping with medals and titles, who enjoyed some genuine influence, he was widely seen as a figurehead for most of his career. Shehabi seemed to be more of a political animal, working sensitive issues like Lebanon and the Syria–Israel peace talks. But he, too, needed Assad’s personal backing to wield power within a military elite dominated by Alawite officers who were often linked to the ruling family by blood or marriage.
|Defense Ministers under the Assads|
|1972–2004||Mustafa Tlass||Sunni Muslim||Homs|
|2004–2009||Hassan Turkmani||Sunni Muslim||Aleppo|
|2011–2012||Daoud Rajha||Greek Orthodox Christian||Damascus|
|2012–2018||Fahd Jassem al-Freij||Sunni Muslim||Hama|
|2018–2022||Ali Abdullah Ayyoub||Alawite||Latakia|
|2022–||Ali Mahmoud Abbas||Sunni Muslim||Rural Damascus|
|Chiefs of Staff under the Assads|
|1968–1972||Mustafa Tlass||Sunni Muslim||Homs|
|1972–1974||Youssef Shakkour||Greek Orthodox Christian||Homs|
|1974–1998||Hekmat al-Shehabi||Sunni Muslim||Aleppo|
|2002–2004||Hassan Turkmani||Sunni Muslim||Aleppo|
|2009–2011||Daoud Rajha||Greek Orthodox Chrisitan||Damascus|
|2011–2012||Fahd Jassem al-Freij||Sunni Muslim||Hama|
|2012–2018||Ali Abdullah Ayyoub||Alawite||Latakia|
|2022–||Abdelkarim Ibrahim||Alwaite (unconfirmed)||Tartous? (unconfirmed)|
An Orderly Chain of Succession?
As he rose to power in summer 2000, Bashar al-Assad made sure to maintain the basic structure of the regime that his father had constructed, including the sectarian imbalance built into its military-security foundation.8 But not everything would carry on as before: Bashar’s arrival meant the removal of several elderly Hafez cronies, and it heralded an end to the era in which senior offices had been lifetime fiefdoms.
Without ever formalizing the matter or making it a strict rule, the new president apparently shifted toward a policy of time-limited and more-or-less seniority-based military appointments, allowing a standardized career path to emerge for Syria’s top officer jobs.
Under Bashar al-Assad, Syrian defense ministers were recruited directly from the position of chief of the general staff, and were not kept in the job for more than a few years. To become chief of staff, they first had to spend a few years as a deputy to the chief of staff, which was made easier by the fact that there was often more than one such deputy. This system created a logical progression from the hierarchy’s formal number-four position (deputy chief of staff), to number three (chief of staff), and finally number two (defense minister and deputy supreme commander). Rank-wise, the deputy chiefs of staff were major generals or lieutenant generals, while the top two positions were kept at the lieutenant general level, which is, in practice, the most senior rank to which a Syrian officer can aspire. (Two higher ranks exist, but one has been out of use since Tlass’s days, and the other is reserved for the president.)
Whether by design or default, the new practice of semi-regular rotation on these symbolic top posts meant that non-Sunnis came to hold them on occasion. And non-Sunnis holding these positions became more common after the 2011 uprising, when numerous Sunni officers defected or were purged due to suspected disloyalty, further reducing an already undersized pool of senior officers from a nonminority background.9
When Tlass left office in 2004, he was succeeded by Lt. Gen. Hassan Turkmani, a Sunni Muslim from Aleppo who was then serving as chief of staff. Turkmani left office in 2009, and his own successor as head of the general staff, Lt. Gen. Ali Habib, took over at the ministry.10 Habib was a decorated veteran, a powerful military insider, and, for the first time under the Assads, an Alawite. He left office soon after the start of the 2011 anti-regime uprising, with state media citing poor health as the reason.11 His replacement was Lt. Gen. Daoud Rajha, a rare Christian in the military’s top ranks. Within a year, Rajha was killed in a bombing, which paved the way for Lt. Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij to advance to the position of defense minister.12 Freij hailed from a Bedouin clan in central Syria, and his appointment restored the post to a Sunni Muslim after the three-year Habib-Rajha interlude. But Freij was removed in a 2018 government reshuffle, amid whispers of worse-than-usual corruption or some political hiccup, and the baton then passed to Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, another Alawite.13
That was when things got a little weird.
When Ayyoub moved to the Ministry of Defense job, Assad never appointed a successor as chief of the general staff. What had first seemed like an unimportant delay eventually grew perplexing, and it raised many eyebrows when Ayyoub, as defense minister, had to represent the Syrian side in international chief-of-staff level meetings, for lack of an actual chief of the general staff.14 As the years passed, Assad continued to appoint deputy chiefs, but, inexplicably, made no move to fill the empty seat at the top of the general staff.
This year, on April 28, Assad appointed Ali Mahmoud Abbas, who had been a deputy chief of the general staff, as the new minister of defense. The timing appears to have been dictated by the fact that Ayyoub turned seventy on April 28, and he was sent into retirement. Two days later, Assad finally—and still without explanation—appointed Abdelkarim Ibrahim as Syria’s new chief of the general staff, filling the position for the first time in four years.
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Abbas, Ibrahim, and Hassan
Syria’s new defense minister, Ali Mahmoud Abbas, was born in 1964 in Efrah, a small Sunni town in the Wadi Barada region west of Damascus. His name has an Alawite-Shia ring to it, but all available information indicates that he is, in fact, of Sunni origins.15
Abbas’s Ministry of Defense biography says he joined the Military Academy in Homs in 1983 and graduated two years later as an armor commander.16 The biography then skips over most of his career, although it notes that he attended a variety of classes and educational programs in Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the Netherlands between 1997 and 2006, likely making him the first Western-trained Syrian defense minister to serve under the Assads.17 There’s no record, however, of Abbas having commanded a major military unit, and his name is not found on U.S. or European sanctions lists, as tends to be the case for senior officers with ground-level influence. It is likely that Abbas, like many senior Sunni officers, has been restricted primarily to non-battlefield roles, such as military education, academic research, logistics, and administration. Indeed, in 2017, he featured in a Syrian state newspaper as head of the Military Institute for Foreign Languages.18 While there’s nothing wrong with language training, a desk job of that type is unlikely to have won Abbas much respect within an officer corps bruised and bloodied by years of vicious counterinsurgency warfare. (Reports alleging that Abbas led a failed 2016 engagement with rebels at Tell Sawan in the Ghouta region, and was wounded, appear mistaken; they refer to another officer by the same name.19)
Despite this seemingly lackluster career, Abbas was promoted to the rank of major general in 2018. Three years later he was made deputy chief of staff, setting him up for last month’s move to the Ministry of Defense and a subsequent promotion to lieutenant general.
Abbas’s uninspiring resumé and comparatively low rank immediately raised eyebrows among observers of the Syrian military.
Abbas’s uninspiring resumé and comparatively low rank immediately raised eyebrows among observers of the Syrian military: “Selecting a major general to be defense minister is interesting because there are perhaps a hundred officers of his rank and many of them held the rank for longer than he has,” said Mohammed Alftayeh, a Syrian researcher of Middle Eastern affairs.20
Even less is known about the new chief of the general staff, Abdelkarim Ibrahim, for whom, curiously, no official biography has been released. Pro-opposition media and researchers claim that he is from Arzouneh, a village west of Tell Kalakh near the Lebanese border.21 If true, it means that he is likely Alawite. It’s possible that the scarcity of information about Ibrahim’s past could indicate that he has served within Syria’s security agencies, which are, even compared to the military, extremely tight-lipped about their operations. Like Abbas, Ibrahim’s name does not feature on U.S. or European sanctions lists.
According to pro-Assad social media, a Ba’ath Party official, and several opposition-friendly online newspapers, Assad also made other, unannounced changes to the command structure.22 Most notably, he is said to have named Maj. Gen. Mufid Hassan as a new deputy chief of the general staff, likely filling the position previously held by Abbas. In contrast to Abbas and Ibrahim, Hassan, who is an Alawite from the Assad family’s home region, is known to have held several heavyweight military commands in recent years, including as head of the Fifth Mechanized Division and, since 2022, as head of the First Corps, which covers southern Syria.23 Alftayeh argues that Hassan may in fact be the strongest of the three generals.24
Reading the Tea Leaves
Syria’s military-security apparatus is as secretive as it is complex, but a couple of things seem clear.
First, the chaos of the Syrian civil war had created a rupture in the conventional step-by-step succession system implemented by Bashar al-Assad early in his reign, which became apparent once Ayyoub left the general staff in 2018. By reinstating the full chain of senior offices, Assad may be laying the foundations for a return to a regular order of promotion.
Second, Abbas’s appointment as Syria’s new defense minister was almost certainly related to his religious background. Whether for the long term or temporarily, the appointment has restored the Hafez-era practice of keeping a Sunni Muslim at the top of the Ministry of Defense. There’s no other obvious way to explain Abbas’s rapid upward promotion in recent years, whistling past Alawite colleagues whose seniority and achievements put his own meager resumé to shame.
To be sure, Abbas’s selection may also have been influenced by other factors, since he wasn’t the only Sunni officer available to Assad when his ascent began a few years ago. (For example, he was preceded as deputy chief of staff by Maj. Gen. Mowaffaq Asaad, another Sunni officer from the wider Damascus region.) One possibility is that Abbas has ties to a specific clique of officers and strongmen, and that his appointment was linked to factional and regional balancing within the regime. But if this is the case, the details are unlikely to ever emerge in public view.
There’s also the issue of external influence. The extent of Russian and Iranian power over Assad’s regime tends to be wildly exaggerated in Western, Arab, and Syrian opposition sources, aiming to disparage the Syrian leader as a plaything in the hands of foreign puppet masters. There is, however, very little credible evidence in support of that view. Although Assad depends greatly on his foreign allies and seeks to please them through sympathetic foreign policy pronouncements and economic concessions, there is no sign of him surrendering control over the regime’s internal affairs to either friend or foe. But even so, it is not far-fetched to assume that Syrian officers angling for career advancement would lean on foreign partners to put in a good word for them with the boss. Alftayeh suggests that the appointment of Abbas may, conversely, have been Assad’s way of pushing back against Russian and Iranian presumptions. By imposing a pliable nobody, the president could “show that [he] has other options and can replace anyone,” Alftayeh said.25 As with everything else related to the Syrian military, however, it’s hard to move beyond speculation.
In sum, Abbas will almost certainly be a weak defense minister. Although information remains scarce, he seems to possess none of the attributes traditionally associated with power in the Syrian security elite. But being a strong, influential leader has only rarely been the job of a defense minister in the Assad system. More often, the minister’s task has been to sign papers, attend ceremonies, and help conceal the lopsided sectarian makeup of the Syrian officer corps—and in that sense, Abbas could be just the man for the job.
As for the chief of staff appointment, the most remarkable fact about Ibrahim’s new role is simply that the appointment happened at all, ending a four-year vacuum in one of the military’s core institutions.
The chief of staff vacancy may have been Assad’s way of winning time as he promoted a new cohort of suitable Sunni officers (including Abbas) toward the top ranks, compensating for wartime defections and purges. It could also have been intended to keep a specific person from acceding to these top positions, freezing upward movement until transfers and age-related retirements had solved the problem.
Now, at any rate, Ibrahim seems to be in line for the defense ministry once Abbas retires. If the information about Ibrahim’s origins is correct, Syria would then again have an Alawite defense minister. (It’s less evident that Hassan would also succeed Ibrahim as chief of staff, since there can be more than one deputy at any given time.) But Assad could choose to maintain Abbas in his position for a decade or more, given that he is only fifty-eight years old—the youngest defense minister in decades. Doing so would give the president plenty of time to remodel the line of succession, if he wants to elevate a specific candidate or ensure that the Ministry of Defense remains under Sunni leadership.
Reorganizing the Military
In the end, the identity of the men appointed by Assad last month may matter less than the fact that the Syrian military establishment has started to reassume its familiar form. Whatever the reasons for the four-year vacancy in the chief of the general staff position, the restoration of Syria’s general staff hierarchy to its normal state may facilitate efforts to restructure the armed forces.
During more than a decade of war, much of the Syrian military has decayed into a jumble of rump units and local and sectarian militias. Some of these local groups have been collected into larger frameworks, such as the National Defense Forces, which are linked to and rely on the regular military without being a part of it.26 Mirroring the decentralized nature of the insurgency, the military, its militia appendages, and their foreign allies have operated through ad hoc operation rooms structured by their functional or regional remit.
During more than a decade of war, much of the Syrian military has decayed into a jumble of rump units and local and sectarian militias.
Following the Russian intervention in 2015, which stabilized Assad’s position and helped his forces retake most of the country, the Syrian government has made limited efforts at military reform. Some militias have been demobilized and some have been incorporated in army formations, even as others remain separate from the military structure. As a whole, however, the Syrian military remains very different from the force that existed in 2011. It just barely resembles a conventional military force, and seems ill-prepared for anything beyond limited, local offensives and counterinsurgency campaigns.
Since about 2018, Russia’s military and diplomatic backing has helped freeze the war on terms favorable to the Syrian government. As a result, little territory has changed hands in recent years, and the conflict has been largely stagnant since a series of destructive battles in the winter and spring of 2019–20. Turkish and U.S. military forces continue to operate in non-government-controlled parts of Syria, but military deterrence and deconfliction deals with Russia have ensured that a cold, unacknowledged peace reigns, most of the time. Although fighting is likely to flare again at some point, the government-controlled parts of Syria have effectively been in a postconflict situation for several years. As long as that situation holds, Assad’s focus will naturally be on the reconsolidation of his rule, including military reforms.
Last month’s military appointments would seem to fit into that context. If Assad hopes to reestablish a conventional, top-down armed force capable of state-on-state warfare, even to a limited degree, he needs to rebuild central functions like the general staff. Having a chief of staff again is a start, but mopping up the mess of field-level militias may prove a more difficult task.
This report was produced with the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Open Society Foundations.
CORRECTION: This report was updated on May 27, 2022, to correct the list of defense ministers under the Assads in the years 1970–1972, and to correct and clarify the language on promotion and ranks for senior positions under Bashar al-Assad. The author wishes to thank Mohammed Alftayeh for pointing out these errors.
header image: A demonstration in support of Bashar al-Assad on March 10, 2005, in Damascus, Syria. Seventeen years later, the regime appears to be returning to some of the tactics it has used for decades to consolidate power. Source: Jeroen Kramer/Getty Images
- Aron Lund, Syria´s Civil War: Government Victory or Frozen Conflict?, Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), https://www.foi.se/en/foi/reports/report-summary.html?reportNo=FOI-R–4640–SE.
- For an example of the problems caused for Assad’s regime by its own militias, see Aron Lund, “Aleppo Militias Become Major Test for Assad,” The New Humanitarian, June 22, 2017, https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/analysis/2017/06/22/aleppo-militias-become-major-test-assad.
- “President Assad Issues a Decree Naming Maj. Gen. Ali Mahmoud Abbas Minister of Defense” (in Arabic), SANA, April 28, 2022, https://sana.sy/?p=1638122.
- “President Assad Issues Two Decrees Promoting the Defense Minister to Lieutenant General and Appointing a Chief of Staff” (in Arabic), SANA, April 30, 2022, https://www.sana.sy/?p=1639383.
- On Hafez al-Assad, see Patrick Seale, Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East, Berkeley (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2nd rev. ed., 1995).
- James T. Quinlivan, “Coup-Proofing: Its Practice and Consequences in the Middle East,” Journal of International Security 24, no. 2 (Fall 1999): 131–65.
- The Assad–Tlass split is referenced in Aron Lund, “The Factory: A Glimpse into Syria’s War Economy,” The Century Foundation, February 21, 2018, https://tcf.org/content/report/factory-glimpse-syrias-war-economy; author’s interview with Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, 2016.
- Hicham Bou Nassif, “‘Second-Class’: The Grievances of Sunni Officers in the Syrian Armed Forces,” Journal of Strategic Studies 38, no. 5 (2015): 626–49.
- Hoda al-Abboud, “President Assad Names Habib Defense Minister” (in Arabic), al-Anba, June 4, 2009, https://www.alanba.com.kw/ar/arabic-international-news/52137/04-06-2009-الاسد-يعين-حبيب-وزيرا-للدفاع.
- “Assad Changes the Defense Minister” (in Arabic), Al Jazeera, August 8, 2011, https://www.aljazeera.net/news/arabic/2011/8/8/الأسد-يغير-وزير-الدفاع.
- “Syria Crisis: Profiles of Security and Defence Chiefs Killed in Damascus Blast,” BBC, July 20, 2012, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-18889030; “The Syrian President Gives His Defense Minister His Instructions” (in Arabic), KUNA, July 19, 2012, https://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2253774&language=ar.
- “President Assad Issues a Decree Effecting a Cabinet Adjustment That Includes the Ministers of Defense, Industry, and Media” (in Arabic), SANA, January 1, 2018, https://www.sana.sy/?p=685784.
- “The Iraqi Army: The Borders with Syria Will Be Opened within Days” (in Arabic), Al Jazeera, March 18, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.net/news/politics/2019/3/18/الجيش-العراقي-سوريا-العراق-إيران.
- For example, Ahmed Rahhal, a defected brigadier general turned opposition pundit, claims to have worked closely alongside Abbas and insists that he is a Sunni Muslim. “Assad Returns the Ministry of Defense to the Sunnis. A Minister That Pleases the Security Agencies” (in Arabic), Al-Modon, April 28, 2022, https://www.almodon.com/arabworld/2022/4/28/الأسد-يعيد-وزارة-الدفاع-للسنة-العثور-على-وزير-يرضي-المخابرات.
- “Maj. Gen. Ali Mahmoud Abbas. Deputy Supreme Commander—Defense Minister. Biography” (in Arabic), Syrian Ministry of Defense, http://mod.gov.sy/index.php?node=5662&nid=368&First=0&Last=3&CurrentPage=0&FD=&TD=&&ctr=254.
- I’m grateful to Mohammed S. Alftayeh for pointing this out to me.
- Al-Riyadi, October 6, 2017. (Website no longer online.)
- For an example of the erroneous reports, see Ramez al-Homsi, “Maj. Gen. Ali Abbas… appointed new defense minister in Syria” (in Arabic), Al-Hal, April 28, 2022, https://7al.net/2022/04/28/اللواء-علي-عباس-وزير-دفاع/ramez-h/news/. The 2016 reports refer to a Maj. Gen. Ali Abbas from the coastal Jableh region. Syria’s new defense minister, Ali Mahmoud Abbas, only attained that rank two years later, and is, as noted, from the Wadi Barada region near Damascus. See, for example, “All the Details about the Killing and Loss of 180 of Assad’s Forces in an Ambush” (in Arabic), Arabi-21, February 13, 2016, https://arabi21.com/story/887376/التفاصيل-الكاملة-لمقتل-وفقدان-180-من-قوات-الأسد-في-كمين; “Following a Call for His Execution… a Senior Syrian Officer Suffers Severe Injury” (in Arabic), Al Arabiya, February 19, 2016, https://www.alarabiya.net/arab-and-world/syria/2016/02/19/بعد-دعوة-لإعدامه-ضابط-سوري-كبير-يتعرض-لإصابة-بالغة.
- Mohammed S. Alftayeh, interview with the author, April–May 2022.
- “Assad Appoints a Chief of the General Staff after Four Years of Vacancy” (in Arabic), Al-Souria, April 30, 2022, https://www.alsouria.net/الأسد-يعين-رئيساً-لـهيئة-الأركان-العا.
- Facebook post (Qerdaha Journal), https://www.facebook.com/QERDAHAJOURNAL/posts/5009505475771301, April 30, 2022; Facebook post (Kamal al-Atmeh), https://www.facebook.com/kamalalatmh/posts/1476514092765150, April 30, 2022; “The Regime Appoints a New Head of the Security and Military Committee in Southern Syria” (in Arabic). Zaman al-Wasl, May 1, 2022, https://www.zamanalwsl.net/news/article/145811; “Assad Fills the Void at the Chief of Staff Position” (in Arabic), Al-Modon, May 1, 2022, https://www.almodon.com/arabworld/2022/5/1/الأسد-يحيط-وزير-الدفاع-السني-بثلاثة-ضباط-علويين. I am grateful to Mohamed Alftayeh for pointing me to some of this information.
- “Appointment of a New Leader for the First Corps in the Syrian Army in the South of the Country,” Suwayda-24, April 6, 2021, https://suwayda24.com/?p=16965.
- Alftayeh, interview.
- Alftayeh, interview.
- See, for example, the chapter on the Syrian National Defense Forces in Thanassis Cambanis, Dina Esfandiary, Sima Ghaddar, Michael Wahid Hanna, Aron Lund, and Renad Mansour, Hybrid Actors (New York: The Century Foundation Press, 2019), pp. 55–82, available for free download at https://tcf.org/content/report/hybrid-actors.