Readers will probably remember that I have written about the Russian-backed V Corps affiliate Dir' al-Watan (Homeland Shield) multiple times. The group has been in existence for more than a year now under the leadership of al-Hajj Muhammad Ja'afar, who is from the Lebanese town of [al-]Qasr in the north Beqaa on the border with Syria. Speaking from Damascus, al-Hajj Muhammad Ja'afar discussed his group and the situation in Syria and Lebanon in an interview with me, as transcribed below with very minor editing and explanations in square brackets for clarity.
al-Hajj Muhammad Ja'afar
Q: It has been more than a year since the formation of Dir' al-Watan. What are the main accomplishments for the formation? In which areas does the formation fight right now? How many martyrs does it have until now? And how many fighters are in the formation?
A: Yes: Dir' al-Watan- The Special Force- was formed a year and two months ago. Its work began with military operations in the city of Palmyra in the V Corps' First Brigade- Assault, and it waged the fiercest battles in the badiya [desert area] with the Russians and the brothers in the Syrian Arab Army under the supervision and directives of the Syrian command beginning from the city of Palmyra. The accomplishments were being realized on a daily basis with the liberation of one place after another until we reached the city of Deir az-Zor and the city of Abu Kamal [Albukamal], and we still have groups on the front lines to confront the armed terrorist groups, and we have obtained the honour of 47 martyrs until now and we began months ago to form Liwa Dir' al-Watan- The Special Force.
Q: There is news of the transfer of Dir' al-Watan from V Corps- Assault to III Corps. Can you confirm that this talk is true?
A: There is no truth to this talk about the transfer of Dir' al-Watan from V Corps to III Corps, and in the end all of the Syrian Arab Army is subject to the directives of the Syrian command headed by President Dr. Bashar Hafez (may God protect him).
Q: Will Dir' al-Watan participate in the anticipated military campaign in Deraa and Quneitra?
A: The personnel of Dir' al-Watan- The Special Force are available for the Syrian command. Where the matter requires for us to be, we will be there, God willing.
Q: After the cleansing of Damascus and its countryside from the insurgents, can we say that the Syrian government has been victorious while the so-called opposition has been defeated?
A: The truth is we can say that the Syrian government has been victorious over global imperialism- that is, America- and more than 80 countries and with Gulf funding [in the campaign] to depose President Dr. Bashar (may God protect him) and they have been chased away and Assad's Syria has been victorious. And in the near future, you will see how these countries will come crawling to Syria- God willing- to apologise.
Q: After the crisis in Syria ends, will Dir' al-Watan remain as a military formation on the ground in Syria?
A: After the Syrian crisis ends and God willing it comes to an end, there is no reason for any military presence for us and in all circumstances we comply with the directives of the Syrian command headed by the President Dr. Bashar Hafez al-Assad (may God protect him).
Q: Are you still in touch with the Russians? Do the Russians offer you support of arms, wealth and military training?
A: There is a strategic agreement between the Russian and Syrian commands and all capabilities are available at all levels from ammunition, training and other things and the first and last matter are subject to the Syrian command.
Q: There were elections in Lebanon around two weeks ago. What was your opinion on the elections? Do any of Lebanon's parties offer the chance for reform and improvement for the people of Lebanon generally and the people of Hermel in particular?
A: The elections were a great victory for the resistance axis despite the direct intervention of the American administration and the support of the Saudi Arabia in all available means of wealth and pressure at all levels. And the statements from the leadership of hirelings and collaborators with Israel and Saudi Arabia- the likes of Samir Geagea and Sa'ad al-Hariri- were that if we get an MP in Ba'albek-Hermel, that is equal to 127 MPs. And the result at the level of Lebanon was 82 MPs for the resistance axis out of 128 MPs.
There is a trend in particular from the Hezbollah leadership and the head [speaker of parliament] Nabih Berri for reform and improvement and the affiliation of the Beqaa and in particular the city [region] of Ba'albek-Hermel. And we don't doubt their credibility.
Q: Do you still hope to establish a party in Lebanon to represent the interests of the marginalised people of Hermel?
A: We have begun to investigate the matter of establishing Dir' al-Watan in Lebanon, and the activities of Dir' al-Watan will be on the level of all of Lebanon and soon God willing we will apply to the Interior Ministry with the knowledge and experience for us to undertake political and service activities and to track the improvement of our areas that have been rich in [i.e. afflicted with] negligence and deprivation for many years.
Q: How are your relations with the Iranians in Syria currently?
A: The relations with the Iranians are very good, excellent relations.
Q: Do the Iranians offer any support for Dir' al-Watan currently?
A: In principle we have not demanded anything, [but] we have sometimes been on the battlefield with a delay in the arrival of food. In a matter of moments we ask them to supply us with the necessities and anything [else] and they will never delay.