SOHR exclusive | “Russia cannot withdraw completely from Syria, and south Syria region has absolute strategic and national importance,” says a source of the 8th Brigade
SOHR exclusive | “Russia cannot withdraw completely from Syria, and south Syria region has absolute strategic and national importance,” says a source inside the 8th Brigade
The 8th Brigade renews its support to a political settlement based on Resolution 2254 and stresses the importance of interaction by Arab powers to end the chronic Syrian crisis. The brigade also warns against the Iranian expansion which threatens the future, unity and safety of Syria and neighbouring countries.
In an exclusive SOHR interview, a source inside the 8th Brigade sees that Russia cannot withdraw all of its troops from Syria, noting that a complete withdrawal will lead to a state of security vacuum and gives a green light to Iranian-backed militias to expand further, posing a threat to the unity of Syria and neighbouring countries.
Q: Drug dealing has become everywhere in south Syria region, amid the government’s inability to cope with this rampant phenomenon. As a member of the 8th Brigade, what is your role to counter this phenomenon? And in your opinion, who supports and backs the manufacturing and promotion of illicit drugs in Syria, which have badly impacted Syrians throughout the country, young people in particular?
A: For years, the 8th Brigade has been countering drug business and prioritising this case. The brigade has worked on prosecuting drug dealers and smugglers in areas under its control and areas which it is deployed in throughout south Syria region. We have already arrested many dealers and smugglers, confiscated grand illicit drug consignments and disbanded several smuggling networks. Drug dealing had been an uncommon phenomenon in Syria previously, as it started to emerge with the beginning of expansion of Iranian-backed militias, the Lebanese Hezbollah and other bodies in Syria. These bodies have worked on promoting drugs among all segments of Syrian society for political, military and social goals. The case has gone beyond trafficking drugs into Jordan, although we are working on countering these operations and controlling the security situation in areas which we are deployed in and every area we can cover. Drug dealing and smuggling are curbed in the areas controlled by the 8th Brigade the most, because of the ongoing prosecution of dealers and smugglers and draining their resources. However, the province of Daraa is very large, and the brigade saves no efforts to counter this phenomenon according to the available capabilities.
Q: For the warring parties in Syria, what is the strategic importance of south Syria region?
A: South Syria is a strategic region for all players. When we talk about south Syria, then we refer to the provinces of Daraa, Al-Suwaidaa, Al-Quneitra and Rif Dimashq. The importance of these provinces is manifested in the strategic border areas with the regimes neighbouring south Syria. Moreover, south Syria region always tops the events, and it has played a remarkable role regarding all key developments in Syria since 2011.
Q: Are you concerned about the outcomes of Russia troops reduction in south Syria?
A: Of course the reduction of Russian forces in the region will lead to a considerable security and military vacuum which other players will compete with each other to exploit, especially Iranian-backed and foreign militias which Syrian society will not like their presence in south Syria region. Such militias are working on tearing the segments of the Syrian society apart. Moreover, the presence of these militias in that region poses a real threat to the regional, Arab and neighbouring powers.
Q: Will the “safe zone” which Turkey is seeking to establish in north Syria be a workable solution for Syrian refugees to return safely from Turkey? And in your opinion, what are the unannounced objectives of this Turkish project?
A: The 8th Brigade supports every effort that could potentially ease the sufferings of Syrian people and protect their dignity across Syrian geography.
Q: The Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov has stated that Russia has no more military tasks in Syria, and that the current presence of Russian forces aims only at preserving security in the region. Does this statement refer to a potential complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria? And what about the coordination between Russia and you, at the brigade?
A: In the past period we monitored partial withdrawal by Russian forces from several areas throughout Syria. However, it is impossible for Russia to withdraw completely from Syria, as its presence in Syria enhances its position at the global level, especially since Russian troops are stationed and dominating a part of the strategic regional water of the Mediterranean Sea, particularly their deployment in Hmeimim military base. Moreover, Russia economically profits from major investment projects inside Syria.
Q: Do you agree with opinions stating that Russian forces’ withdrawal from Syria gives the chance to Israel to expand its presence?
We, at the 8th Brigade, support the unity of Syrian land and oppose all attempts to separate any part of Syrian territory to serve the interests of other countries. Furthermore, we reject the intervention of foreign countries and exacerbating the Syrians’ sufferings.
Q: Does the trilateral interference by Russia, Iran and Turkey in Syria impede the reaching of a political settlement?
A: A political settlement must be based on the draft of the International Resolution No. 2254.
Q: In your opinion, what is the reason behind the absence of the role of Arab powers to settle Syria’s crisis?
A: The considerably complex developments in Syria and intervention of major powers are the main reasons. We are looking forward to witnessing an effected Arab role in the coming stage. Our stance is the same, and all powers must support rapprochement between Syria and other Arab countries and reject all plans aiming at tearing Syria out of the Arab world.