Republican Guard (Syria)
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|Syrian Republican Guard Forces|
Republican Guard shoulder sleeve insignia
|Active||1976 — present|
|Allegiance||President of Syria|
|Branch||Syrian Arab Army|
|Garrison/HQ||Mount Qasioun, Damascus|
|Maj. Gen. Shoaeb Suleiman|
|Deputy Commander||Brig. Gen. Mohamed Qasem|
|Brigade Commanders||Brig. Gen. Issam Zahreddine (104th Brigade)
Brig. Gen. Talal Makhlouf (105th Brigade)
Brig. Gen. Rukin Mohamed Khaddor (106th Brigade)
Manaf Tlass (formerly) (105th Brigade)
The Syrian Republican Guard (Arabic: الحرس الجمهوري al-Haras al-Jamhūriyy as-Sūrī), also known as the Presidential Guard, is an elite 25,000 man mechanized division. Its main purpose is to protect the capital, Damascus, from any foreign or domestic threats. The Guard is the only Syrian military unit allowed within the capital city centre.
The Guard was formed in 1976 when anti-Syrian Palestinian groups launched attacks on Syrian officials. Major-General Adnan Makhlouf commanded the Guard from 1976 till 1997. The Republican Guard is used mostly to protect top Syrian government officials from any external threats and to serve as a counter-weight to the other powerful Syrian Army formations near the capital, the 4th Mechanized Division, the 3rd Armoured Division, and the 14th Special Forces (Airborne) Division. It is reported[by whom?] that in order to maintain loyalty to the Syrian government, officers of the Republican Guard receive a significant share of the revenue from the Syrian oil fields in the Deir ez-Zor region, which in large part is not recorded in the country's budget. Many members of the Assad family have served in the Republican Guard. Bashar al-Assad was a Colonel, and was given control of a brigade. His younger brother Maher was also a Colonel in the Republican Guard.
At the outset of the 2011 conflict, the Republican Guard included three mechanized brigades and two “security regiments.” The overall force structure is comparable to a conventional mechanized infantry division, but like the 4th Armored Division, the Republican Guard is outfitted with better equipment and maintained at full strength. Brigade commanders include regime stalwarts like Talal Makhlouf, who hails from the family of Hafez al-Assad’s wife, and the Division’s officers and soldiers are almost entirely Alawites. The Republican Guards did include Sunni leadership at the outset of the conflict, notably Manaf Tlass, son of Syria’s long-serving Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass and close friend to Bashar before the uprising. As early as May 2011, the government reportedly placed Tlass under house arrest, and he defected in July 2012.
Syrian civil war
At the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the Republican Guard kept out of the conflict, with only the regular Syrian Armed Forces fighting. In June 2012, the Republican Guard clashed with rebels near its housing compounds and bases in the suburbs of Qudsaya and al-Hamah, about 8 kilometers from central Damascus. The unit has been accused by Human Rights Watch of engaging in human rights abuses during the conflict. Later on, Republican Guard units were deployed to government bases in the North and East of the country, in order to bolster and stiffen the resistance against rebel advances.
Uniform and insignia
The Republican Guard uniform is distinct from the regular Army uniform. Service dress is composed of red berets rather than the standard black or green, red epaulettes, red lanyards, and brown leather belts with brown shoes. On ceremonial occasions, officers wear red peaked caps instead of a beret.
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