The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is sending members of its militias for guerrilla combat training at a secret base in Iran, Reuters reports based on interviews with four trainees.
There are currently at least 50,000 militiamen — known as Jaysh al-Sha’bia (i.e. “People’s Army”) — and Iran aims to increase the force to 100,000.
Trainees said most of the men are from Assad’s Alawite sect and are flown from Latakia air base in Assad’s homeland to Tehran International Airport before being bussed to an undisclosed location.
Some of the militias — previously known as Shabbiha or “ghost” and accused of some of the worst atrocities of the war — have rebranded themselves as the “National defence Army.”
The trainees said some trained as guerrilla ground forces with automatic rifles and mounted anti-aircraft guns while others trained as snipers.
“It was an urban warfare course that lasted 15 days,” one trainee told Reuters. “The trainers said it’s the same course Hezbollah operatives normally do”
In August a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard told The Wall Street Journal that “fighting for Syria is an integral part of keeping the Shiite Crescent intact,” referring to the geographical link between Shiites in power from Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
Earlier this month Major General Aviv Kochavi, the head of Israeli military intelligence, said that “Iran and Hezbollah are preparing for the day after Assad’s fall, when they will use this army to protect their assets and interests in Syria.”
“There were some groups from Hezbollah training at the same base but there was no communication between our groups,” Sameer, another militiaman from Homs, told Reuters. “They did their thing, and we did ours. I think their training was tougher than ours.”
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