Self-promotion of the militia, propaganda image
The "New Syrian army" is supposed to cut off the IS connection between Syria and Iraq. Success remains elusive
When it comes to fighting in Syria, attention is mainly focused on the northern parts of the country, apart from Eastern Ghouta. Mostly the focus is on the situation in Aleppo and its surroundings or Manbij. Military operations in the south are less covered by the news.
However, a new militia name has appeared in the news from Syria in recent days that has raised eyebrows: the "new Syrian army", which operates in the south of the country, supported by the United States from Jordan. Reported collision between the two rough powers: In mid-June, the Russian air force attacked units of the new Syrian army near al-Tanf. The place is located near the border with Iraq and Jordan. The Military Times reported that U.S. representatives were awaiting a statement.
According to the American publication, this failed to materialize for the time being. The U.S. military and the British allies wondered about the strategic value of the attack for the Russian air force. Especially since there was a "memorandum of understanding" between the USA and Russia in Syria.
The next explanation for anyone who does not have access to the internal information of the Russian command center is that the militias in al-Tanf were considered enemy military units. The U.S. leadership is not uninvolved in this. Repeatedly since 2013 at the latest, there have been reports that from Amman, where a U.S.-led coalition military command is based and the CIA is well represented, Syrian "Rebels" to be significantly expanded to fight the Syrian army from there, with the goal of bringing about a change of power in Damascus (cf. Syria: The Rise of Armed Resistance).
Self-representation of the militia, propaganda image
Well-equipped is the "new Syrian army", If one believes the information from Bellingcat, where the equipment of the militia is presented like in a catalog. The members, as described by the US-critical blog Moon of Alabama, is a "Salafist gang from Deir Ezzor". The basis for this is a Vice report, which describes the origins of the militia members as being "Deir al-Zour rebel diaspora" states.
Despite the Bellingcat catalog images, the project looks like the "New Syrian Army" does not look promising. The latest reports – after the first military successes – speak of the defeat of the militia. "They lost", ran the headline in the LA Times. The new Syrian army suffered heavy losses and the IS fighters captured expensive war equipment, weapons and ammunition.
The militia is acting alone, without any support from tribes, and the Kurdish army is operating 30 kilometers away, explains Fabrice Balanche, a French expert on tribes in the Iraq and Syria region. Moreover, the militia is small, with only a few hundred members (the US magazine Vice considers this number to be far exaggerated). They were well equipped by the Americans and the British, according to Balanche, but – due to a shortcoming of the Americans – they had good training, but no real motivation for the fight. Moon of Alabama even makes you wonder if there might not have been some ulterior motive behind the disgraceful defeat.
At least the new Syrian army had support from Jordanian elite troops and was put behind front lines by helicopter. The military objective, as far as the news reveals, was not an offensive on Damascus, but a project that is considered very important strategically – and also symbolically – in the fight against IS: The "New Syrian army" is said to be near Boukamal, a city with 50.000 inhabitants, to cut off and control the connection of the IS caliphate areas in Syria and Iraq.