The successes of the Syrian army are increasingly accompanied by heavy, significant losses, especially offensive because the civil war is clearly coming to an end. One of the most famous generals of the government army Issam Zahreddin was killed as a result of undermining his car on a mine. What was Zahraddin famous for and why was his death a truly terrible blow for Assad and the Syrian army?
In Syria, one of the most famous generals of the government army, Issam Zahreddin, died, responsible for the last three years for the defense of Deir ez Zor. "General Issam died yesterday as a result of a mine explosion near the island of Sakr," the Syrian government army headquarters reported. Military sources also report that the general was in charge of a special operation to sweep the island of Sakr off Deir-ez-Zor when his staff car jumped on the mine, presumably put by the IGIL militants *.
Major-General Issam Zahreddin (Zahr Eldin or, in another pronunciation, Zaher al-Din) was 56 years old. All his conscious life he served in the elite parts of the Syrian army and on a par with General Hassan Suheil was considered one of the most authoritative, professional and influential front commanders.
He was born in Essaouira, not far from the border with Jordan, the ancient Dionysia, so called by the Romans for the exceptional wine that the Druze family still produce exclusively (this is a national business like the Cahors of local Maronite Christians). After graduation from the military school in 1982, Zakhreddin began his career as lieutenant in the company of special forces of airborne troops. And in 1987 year for zeal, devotion and talents was transferred to the armored forces of the Republican Guard, which were formed as a military support of the authorities.
The elite of the elite units of the SAA was considered and is the 104-I brigade of the Republican Guard, which at various times was commanded either personally by representatives of the Asad family, or their proxies. So, the elder brother of the incumbent president, the great and terrible Basil Assad, a Syrian icon and the main heir of power, commanded the brigade until his tragic death in a car crash in 1994. Bashar himself commanded the brigade. And Issam Zahreddin headed the brigade already with the beginning of the civil war, being an unborn druze and never a relative of the Alawite Asad.
The fact is that before the Zahraddin the brigade was commanded by Manaf Tlass, the son of the "eternal" Minister of Defense of Syria (from 1972 to 2002 year) Mustafa Tlassa, the second most influential man in the country during the reign of the senior Assad, Hafez. Manaf was the closest personal friend of Bashar Assad, and with Basil they studied together in the military school, and in recent years before the Civil War, he actually turned into the right hand of the young president. Apparently, according to the unspoken traditions of Syrian life, the son of Mustafa Tlassa was preparing to become with the new president (first Basile, and after his death at Bashar) by who his father was with Hafez Assad - the right-hand man and the gray cardinal. Such is the continuity of generations in the Middle East.
It was Manaf Tlass who participated on behalf of Bashar Assad in numerous behind-the-scenes and secret negotiations with the newly emerging opposition and some foreign states.
And one can imagine the degree of psychological attack for the Syrian president when his closest friend and right-hand man openly ran over to the side of the opposition and entered the command of the newly formed Syrian free army, that is, the so-called moderate armed opposition.
In 2012, Manaf Tlass finally fled from Syria to France with the assistance of the chief of Saudi intelligence, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. The location of Manaf Tlass is now carefully hidden, since no one will even put a copper dinar on his life. Such betrayals are not forgiven, although Bashar Assad for a long time did not dare to somehow repress his childhood friend, confining himself to house arrest and external surveillance, which ultimately allowed Manaf Tlass to flee the country. The Syrian president is a man more inclined to reflect than he is represented in the West, and the friend's betrayal was a serious psychological blow to him.
And then the tanks of the 104-th brigade were commanded by the homeless drunk Issam Zakhreddin, who proved to be much more faithful than the hereditary "friend" Tlass.
Relations between religious and ethnic communities in the large Middle East are so intertwined and confused that all these types of "ally-enemy" types simply can not be sustainable. The Druze community has changed its attitude to the power of the Assad in Syria several times over the past few decades, from full support to open war. The leader of the Druze, the former "great friend of the Soviet people", a member of the presidium of the World Peace Council, headquartered on Prospekt Mira in Moscow, the deputy chairman of the Socialist International, Walid Jumblat hated Hafez Assad, accusing him of killing his father Kamal. And in retaliation for his death, he ordered the carving of Christian (Maronite) and Alawite villages in the vicinity of Jebel Druz (the place of compact residence of the Druze in Syria). But in 1982, he was forced to flee to Damascus and ask Hafez for shelter and help. After the occupation of Lebanon by Syrian troops, Jumblatt personally became part of the Lebanese government in the patronage of the Syrians. After coming to power in Damascus, Bashar Assad Jumblatt grew bolder (not only did he consider the doctor from London to be a weak link in the Asad family) and began to come forward with extremely anti-Syrian positions and demand the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. He even met with Condoleezza Rice, who asked for American assistance in the fight against Syria.
Druses are a 1,500-million-strong closed sect (you can only become a Druze by birth) with poorly studied religious doctrine, which can definitely be considered no longer Muslim, because they believe in the transmigration of souls and unlimited freedom of will, and the first and second is unthinkable for Islam . They are governed, like a typical sect, by the so-called ukkal ("smart", plural from "Akil") - spiritual leaders, among which there is a very complex and closed hierarchy. Becoming a ukkal is possible only after reaching 40 years, after years of special training and initiations. For example, the father and son of Jumblata were not pokers and could not be, they are only political and military leaders, but they have to reckon with the existing order of things.
And in February 2013, the council of the Uccalles, assembled in Essaouide, called General Issam Zahreddin "deserving death" ("deserving" and not "worthy of death" - these are different concepts) for his participation in the civil war in Syria on the side of the government of Bashar Assad . And not long before, Walid Jumblat accused Zakhreddin of "a war against his own people."
Historically, among the Druze, two "princely" clans compete: the already known Jumblats and Arslan. This conflict is almost a thousand years old, and endless attempts at reconciliation and related mixing (Valid Jumblat's mother - Mei Arslan) lead only to periods of relative calm. Damascus in the 80 and 90-ies tried to play it, but not too successfully. Did not cope with the task of manipulating the Druze and the Israelis (the Druze are the only national minority of Israel, who are allowed to serve in the IDF). As a result, a militant but poor sect simply gave up and tried, without need, not to comb the "Druze question".
Against this background, General Zakhreddin, after a public anathema of the priests, became the leader of that part of the Syrian Druze who would like a more secular way of life. In addition, they hope for the economic reconstruction of Jebel Druz, a backward agrarian region of Syria, devastated not only by the civil war, but also by religious feudal strife, provoked by Walid Jumblat, a socialist and internationalist, the Russian Order of People's Friendship. In addition, Zakhreddin as an alternative to the aged Jumblatt could become a political figure.
Still, he could not claim the role of a "Syrian Bonaparte", which the American and French intelligence agencies have been actively seeking among the Syrian generals for the past year and a half. If it was not possible to overthrow Bashar Assad by the forces of defectors and traitors, why not make a bet on one of the current senior officers with political ambitions? And the priority in this work, apparently, is from Paris, which initially clung to Manafa Tlassa and sheltered several more prominent defectors from the members of the Asad family.
There is no data on whether there were real recruiting approaches to well-known front-line generals, but such work is for sure being conducted. In addition, public mention of the political activity of famous generals may compromise them in the eyes of the president, who was already plowed through the story of Manaf Tlass. In Syria, there is no spy mania in its pure form, but this is the Middle East, where it is not known how such a word will respond. For example, General Hasan Suheil carefully avoids any political statements, other than emphasizing loyalty to Bashar Assad. But he is constantly under the care of Russian specialists, and the younger Assad - Maher - is engaged more in business than in war. The chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Ali Abdullah Ayub, does not play any political role, and is not as popular in the troops as front-line officers. Minister of Defense Fahim Jasem al-Fredj, according to some data, is under strict control of the close circle of Bashar Assad and performs more representative functions.
The death of General Zakhreddin - a man of talent, braver and faithful - is certainly a huge loss for the Syrian army and Syria as a whole.
He went through almost all fronts - from Damascus and Aleppo to Deir-ez-Zor, gained vast experience and perfectly found a common language with Russian advisers. On wars there are tragic accidents, especially those where the division commander (and in fact the front) must personally command the jeep to clean up the rear areas. It is unlikely that he will be adequately replaced, and politically, if you think about the future structure of the new Syria and relations with the Druze community, there is absolutely no one to find. There is his son Yarob - battalion commander of the same division, but he will still have to prove his right to authority in practice. And this is not easy.