Western media persists in portraying the emergence of extremist armed groups in Daraa, south of Damascus, as the “cradle of the revolution” to overthrow the Syrian government. The reality is that Daraa was the touchpaper lit by hardline Libyan mercenaries imported into the city prior to 2011.
From Daraa, the “revolutionary” flames fanned by the US, UK and Israeli-led coalition headquartered in Jordan, funded by Gulf-state blood money, would engulf Syria for ten long years. In Daraa, the CIA/MI6-backed Muslim Brotherhood extremist gangs fronted the orchestrated uprising, power multiplied by Libyan arms and terrorist factions and given credibility by the colonial media complex spearheaded by the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera.
Attempt to absorb extremist military into Russian-controlled armed brigades backfires
In 2018, an uneasy truce was brokered by the Russian reconciliation teams, and the illegal armed groups that remained in Daraa Al Balad, the hub of the violent US-sponsored insurgency, were persuaded to surrender their heavy weapons but allowed to keep their light arms as part of the peace deal. Russia effectively attempted to bring these brutal armed groups into line by absorbing them into Russian-founded and controlled armed divisions. According to armed-group-aligned media outlets, a former Free Syrian Army leader, Ahmed Al-Awda was given command of the 8th Brigade, “a subdivision of the Russian-founded Fifth Corps.”
However, this was perhaps a miscalculation by Russia in its desire to bring fighting on the southern front to a swift conclusion. The armed groups that had committed multiple war crimes and atrocities against Syrian civilians and anti-terrorism armed forces had no intention of relinquishing their campaign of retaliatory crimes against anyone they considered to be loyal to the Syrian government and state. A vicious offensive was unleashed by these extremist gangs formerly associated with terrorist Al Qaeda and ISIS factions in the southern region.
Since mid-2019, even the EU-funded Syrian Observatory for ‘Human Rights’ reported on more than 1,136 attacks and assassinations that claimed the lives of 774 Syrians, including 12 women and 22 children, by gunfire, IED detonations, as well as suicide car and motorcycle attacks. The gangs also fought among themselves, assassinating rival gang leaders and members. In July 2021, civilians including a child were killed and injured when the armed gangs shelled the National Hospital in Daraa, having clearly replenished their heavy-weapons arsenal.
The presence of UK Special Forces in the region was an indication that the armed groups were still being trained in the use of IEDs for anti-government operations by the British – in March 2020, RAF Chinook helicopters based in Cyprus were scrambled to rescue an SAS soldier injured in an IED explosion “deep inside the warzone” in southern Syria.
I met Adham Alkarad, commander of the Engineering and Missile Division of the FSA, in September 2018 after a precarious visit to Daraa, while the ink was not yet dry on the Russian-brokered agreement. Alkarad cornered me as a British journalist, assuming I was sympathetic to the cause, and informed me that they would never capitulate and that, even with light weapons, they would continue their violent US coalition-backed-crusade to topple the Syrian government and to wipe out “loyalists” who condemned the armed group’s presence in Daraa.
Alkarad told me back then that the protests would continue and that he would contact the BBC and CNN directly to elicit their coverage and support. Alkarad designed the 500kg Omar Rocket that caused horrifying damage to civilian infrastructure and military targets during the reign of terror in Daraa. Alkarad was himself assassinated by unknown gunmen in October 2020.
Damascus loses patience with armed extremism and regains control of Daraa Al Balad
After months of negotiations, siege and military clashes between Damascus and the armed groups in Daraa, a final ceasefire was achieved on August 31, with Russia taking a less prominent role in the settlement. One week before this agreement was reached, King Abdullah II of Jordan had met with President Putin in Moscow to prioritise the resolution of the Daraa security issues.
On September 9, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained the agreement brokered to resolve the Daraa province tensions. It is interesting that this explanation was given during a joint press conference with Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs, Yair Lapid. The original 2018 Russian deal with the armed groups had offered Israel guarantees that Iran and Hezbollah would be kept a safe distance from Israeli borders with Syria.
Lavrov effectively announced that the province would be handed back to the legitimate Syrian Arab Army forces and that extremist militants should again surrender their heavy weapons. Negotiations were underway about the withdrawal destination for the armed groups, as their remaining in Daraa was “unlikely.”
This is a blow for Israel, whose continued violations of Lebanese airspace and unlawful aggression against Syria have been largely unimpeded by retaliatory armed response and barely reported-on by the Western corporate media. This might change with Damascus back in the southern driving seat and the shift in power that will almost certainly open the door to an Iranian and Hezbollah military presence closer to the Israel/Syria borders as a deterrent against Israeli offensives.