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Published in Press Stream:
September 29, 2015

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Published in Stream:
September 29, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Disagreements Between Iranian Militia Leaders And Assad Commanders Near Russia's Bases In Latakia?
5 years
Stream: September 29, 2015
Publication: Putin in Syria
New Russian Logistics and Repair Ship, Loaded With "Anti-Terror" Soldiers, Headed From Crimea To Syria

Al Aan TV, a satellite station based in United Arab Emirates, posted a story on Sunday which suggests there are major disagreements between Iranian and Syrian regime commanders over fighting which took place recently in northwestern Hama province, on the Al Ghab plain which borders Hama, Idlib, and the mountains east of Latakia -- the regime's stronghold. The Interpreter has translated some excerpts:

AlaanTV received information that there are major disagreements between Iranian militia leaders and the regime’s senior officers in Damascus and Hama, according to a regime general who collaborates with the rebels.

He stressed that the disagreements are due to regime forces abandoning all areas captured by Shiite fighters in battles against the rebels, which clearly manifested in the last battles of Sahil Al Ghab.

Pro-regime areas in the western countryside of Hama have witnessed massive security lawlessness for a month now. [Assad] regime security forces no longer have any role in imposing their authority, while weapons are widespread among everyone, even among children under the age of ten, according to activists.

...

Since the beginning of last week, the regime sent troops from the Fourth Division led by Maher al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad’s brother, to support and strengthen the militias fighting in Sahil Al Ghab against the rebels. 600 Iranian fighters were sent also for support 14 days ago according to an activist.

This is critical for several key reasons. The fighting in the Al Ghab plain (map) is west of Ma'arat al Nouman and about 40 kilometers east of a Russia's bases in Latakia. Ma'arat al Nouman, an important crossroads which we described late last week, has recently been hammered by Assad aircraft:

The deploying of the 4th Armored Division is also potentially massively important. This unit is considered one of Assad's most elite, best equipped, and most loyal units, but it has, for the most part, been held in reserve near Damascus for much of the duration of the war, there to defend the capital against rebel threats and disloyal soldiers. If the 4th Division cannot turn things around in the area, Russian troops and aircraft can easily be used as support. However, if that still does not reverse the tide of battle, Bashar al Assad and the Russian forces which support him could have a fight for survival on their hands earlier than anyone anticipated.

To put things in a wider perspective, let's look at this map made by the Institute for the Study of War:

The green numbers on this map are known locations of Russian military positions. The fighting in question is perhaps less than 18 kilometers east of #4 , on the edge of rebel-controlled territory. Clearly, this is an area where Assad cannot afford to have the rebels advance.

We've also seen a great deal of tension between Assad's commanders and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps who are, by many accounts, calling all the shots now in Syria. This has led to the execution of certain Syrian commanders who felt that Iran was exerting too much influence over the country, and particularly over the battlefield at this same location.

Again, with few signs that ISIS has won any significant territory or poses a new significant threat to the Assad regime, it's clear that the rebel advance on Latakia, not any other reason, is the prime motivation for the deployment of Russian jets and soldiers.

-- James Miller, Ronak Housaine