Much attention is focusing right now on the prospect of a Syrian government offensive to reclaim greater Idlib province and its environs. However, operations are ongoing against the Islamic State in the Suwayda' desert in the south of the country. Among the forces participating on the side of the Syrian government in the Suwayda' desert campaign are the National Defence Forces (NDF) of Suwayda' province. The NDF in Suwayda' province is among the largest pro-government auxiliary formations in the province. To discuss the Suwayda' NDF further, I interviewed today Emad Najeeb al-Salman, the automation and connections official in the Suwayda' NDF. Any explanatory insertions are in square brackets.
Q: When was the Suwayda' NDF established? Did you have a role in establishing the NDF in Suwayda'?
A: The Suwayda' NDF was established at the end of 2012 because of the pressing need for the presence of national forces of combat and auxiliary support for the Syrian army to anchor security and guarantee, protect the administrative borders, and respond quickly to resist any treacherous aggression. And in so far as I am one of the social and field activists on the field of the province, we were entrusted by the founders of the NDF and the political leadership for the province to participate in founding the centre [for Suwayda'] and recruiting appropriate people for affiliation and influencing the administrative and organizational framework of the centre.
Q: What are the most important battles in which the Suwayda' NDF has participated? And how many martyrs does the Suwayda' NDF have?
A: The [Suwayda' NDF] centre has had a prominent field role in all the battles that have occurred on the borders of the province:
- Northeast countryside: Tel Fara, Kharbat Sa'ad, Bi'r al-Rasi'i
- West countryside: Dama, Dir Dama, al-Duwaira, Haran, Ta'ara (chemical battalion)
- The battle of al-Tha'ala military airport and the two villages of Baka and Dhabin on the fall of Busra al-Sham in 2015.
We have also had the honour of participating in battles outside Suwayda' province in the al-Sha'ar fields, T4 military airport in Homs countryside and Khan al-Sabeel in Aleppo and the battles of north Latakia countryside and the majority of the battles that occurred on the land of the provinces of Quneitra and Deraa (Tel al-Hara, al-Manshiya) and in Damascus countryside during the liberation of East Ghouta. The NDF in the years of the war against our homeland has offered more than 200 martyrs who sacrificed their blood for the sake of the dignity of the homeland and the sanctity of its soil and the safety of its people.
Q: Can you clarify the role of the friends (the Islamic Resistance- Hezbollah and the Iranian side) in aiding the Suwayda' NDF against terrorism? Did they have a role in establishing the Suwayda' NDF originally?
A: The friends and allies (Iran and the Islamic Resistance) have not been miserly in supporting the NDF materially and in terms of morale and they had an important advisory role in the stage of establishment and subjecting the fighters to training sessions in all types of weapons and their participation has constituted a true support in the difficult circumstances in the combat experiences they have offered us.
Q: How are the relations between you and the other factions in Suwayda'?
A: The NDF is a fundamental part and auxiliary for the Syrian Arab Army, one of the pillars and foundations of the Syrian state. And we as an NDF are subject to the laws and constitution of the state and are bound by its causes of fate and our direction is clear and firm in defending the homeland in any place of beloved Syria. And we do not doubt in any weapons so long as they are present to defend the soil of the homeland and we commend the enduring noble ones who continue on the pledge of their ancestors in resisting the enemies and terrorism and permanently anchoring the national state and its foundational principles. And we condemn the attempts and intervention of enemy states to split the rank and disseminate discord and conflict among the components of the province and its fighting factions in all their names.
Q: There is much talk that a little before the massacre a month and a half ago the Syrian government and Russians demanded the auxiliary factions in Suwayda' to hand over some of their weapons to the government. Can you clarify this matter?
A: The talk is untrue. Weapons were withdrawn on an individual level from some people who used them in the wrong way for purposes for which they were not intended, on the basis that they would be handed back to competent persons. And we reject completely any pointing of fingers at a government side or the NDF that they withdrew weapons, because that is considered to be an accusation and that is rejected.
Q: Generally there is much talk of a plan to dissolve the NDF in Syria in the near future. Is this talk true?
A: Many rumours have been repeated in this regard. The NDF is affiliated with the army and armed forces and if a decision is issued to dissolve it when the need demands, we will remain as loyal soldiers in any place and time when our presence is required under the shade of the military and political leadership.
Q: How is the security situation in Suwayda' generally? There are many reports of problems of kidnapping and smuggling. What are the main reasons behind these problems?
A: The deviant and internal cases on the conservative society of Suwayda' in the time of war are a temporary state of affairs imposed by the chaos that has arisen and lack of conscience of some individuals who have benefited from the war economy and polluted money. And in my opinion there is a third party responsible for stirring up discords among the components of Suwayda' that have constituted and continue to constitute a strong societal vanguard that is difficult to penetrate by the fifth column. As for who is responsible, there is no doubt that they are external parties connected with the Zionist entity and the traitors, but all that will be eliminated in the near future.
Q: How is the fighting going against the Dawa'esh [Islamic State guys] in the Suwayda' desert? The fighting is very difficult?
A: The eastern desert front differs from all the open fronts on the field of the Syrian land because of its vast areas and rugged difficult terrain features and harsh environment and huge volcanic areas that resemble to a large extent the nature of the Tora Bora mountains. Despite that, the army and NDF achieved a rapid advance during the first days of launching the campaign and slowed down when the military encirclement began, tightening around the al-Safa volcano mountains, which are considered a centre for the grouping of the leaders of the organization from the first rank and the strongest defence lines. Despite that, we are still determined to uproot the organization and their fictitious state. And we will not withdraw from any inch we have liberated from the hands of these treacherous evil people. And yesterday night 22 martyrs from the NDF died in the battles of heroism and honour.