For context, Saraya al-Areen is a group whose foundation lies in the al-Qardaha area of Latakia. Led by Yisar Talal al-Assad (a member of the extended al-Assad family), the group was initially an independent outfit but is presently affiliated with the Iranian-backed Local Defence Forces network. Below is a brief interview I did with a member of the group. Parenthetical insertions are in square brackets.
Q: First can you tell me about your life? What were you working as before the crisis? And when did you join Saraya al-Areen?
A: I worked as a barber and later I joined Saraya al-Areen.
Q: Saraya al-Areen is the first time you bore arms against terrorism?
Q: In what year approximately?
A: In 2016 I joined up.
Q: May I ask in which areas you have fought?
A: In al-Deir [Deir az-Zor], Albukamal, al-Mayadeen, Hama and al-Tanf.
Q: And now you are on leave permit?
Q: The one who joins Saraya al-Areen, this is tantamount to compulsory service in the Syrian Arab Army?
A: Yes. Local Defence, affiliated with compulsory service in the Syrian Arab Army.
Q: Yes exactly. Affiliation with the Revolutionary Guard and at the same time on the registers of the army and armed forces.
A: Of course, [affiliation with] the Local Defence Forces, but on taswiya [taswiyat al-wad'- 'regularizing status/sorting out affairs'], and praise be to God taswiya has been done.
Q So at the time you joined Saraya al-Areen you were wanted for compulsory service?
A: No, I wasn't wanted. I joined before being wanted. My friend was in it and I joined with him.
Q: Yes. So you joined at the suggestion of your friend in the Saraya.
A: My friend was in it before me and I said to him I want to join with you. At the suggestion of my friend, yes.
Q: The salaries are good because the friends [Iranians] are responsible for them.
A: The salaries we receive at the commercial bank on a bank card. The salaries are from the friends.
Q: Yes. Also the training comes from the friends, right?
Q: From the battles you participated in, which has been the fiercest battle? For example the Albukamal battle?
A: Yes. The battle of Albukamal and Hama and al-Mayadeen.
Q: Yes. I think Saraya al-Areen participated in the liberation of Albukamal and al-Mayadeen.
A: Yes, of course.
Q: The Hama battle was when? This year?
A: Yes, this year. The Hama battle was intense. In the Hama countryside of course.
Q: Yes. What is the coming mission for the Saraya? The Idlib battle?
A: By God's permission, the Idlib battle.
Q: But currently the assignment is strengthening the positions in Deir az-Zor?
A: Currently for the al-Deir positions, the assignments have been stopped. We have finished with al-Deir. And now by God's permission to Idlib.
Q: Yes, because the area [Deir az-Zor] has been secured?
A: The area has been entirely secured. For al-Mayadeen, half of the civilians have returned to it. And al-Deir as well. And now the army is firmly established in those places.
Q: Yes, fine. Do you have a message for the insurgents in Idlib?
A: Victory is near by God's permission. This is the thing I want to tell them: victory is near by God's permission.