The people of Daraa al Balad believe their perseverance and resistance is an impregnable fortress defending all the cities in the Hauran region, while the regime fears its replication elsewhere in Syria.
Daraa al Balad, the epicenter of the revolution in Syria, has been besieged by the Bashar al Assad regime and Iranian militias since late June. After negotiations collapsed on September 3 because the regime broke the August 31 agreement and raised the ceiling of demands, the regime began a fierce bombardment campaign with artillery and heavy missiles to force the people of Daraa al Balad to give in.
In a manoeuvre to buy more time, the negotiating delegation demanded on September 3, a safe place to retreat to, either on Turkish or Jordanian territory, neither of which accepted it, according to the official spokesman of the negotiating committee, Adnan al Masalma.
After 76 days of siege, the regime ended its military escalation in Daraa al Balad and allowed the people to cross to and from Daraa al Balad, following a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement on September 6. This agreement includes the delivery of all light and medium weapons from the opposition, the deployment of 9 regime checkpoints through which the regime is to inspect identities and search for armory depots; after which the regime forces will retreat and break the siege.
The regime’s rationale
Since June 24, the regime had imposed an unjust siege on some 50,000 civilians in Daraa al Balad, bombing the only medical facility and breaking the ceasefire agreement signed under Russian auspices in July 2018. The deal divided Daraa between the regime and opposition supported by Russia, and stipulated that the opposition hand over their heavy and medium weapons.
The regime, and the Iranian militias backing it, aim to disrupt any agreement that suits the interests of the people of Daraa, out of fear of the replication of Daraa's model of steadfastness in any other region, whether in the south or in the PYD-controlled region in eastern Syria.
The regime and Iranian militias are also trying to extend their control over the region, and dissolve the revolutionary situation that the people maintained after the settlement in July 2018.
On the other hand, the Russian army, although it supported the negotiations between the two parties, shows no inclination to resolve the conflict in favour of the people, and focuses on the survival of the regime, to which it is linked by many interests.
The regime's strategy is to starve the people, weaken their resistance, crush the hotbed of revolution and end the demonstrations, separate each of the cities of reconciliation and settlement, and expand the influence of the Iranian militias in the south.
Since the beginning of the negotiations, the regime's intention to impose impossible clauses on the Central Negotiating Committee in Daraa has been met with absolute rejection.
The negotiators for Daraa al Balad have sent a message to the regime and the Russians: either they formulate an agreement that protects the people and keeps them in their homes, or 50,000 people would prefer to be displaced.
Most attempts by the Russians to bridge the gap between the regime and the negotiating delegation failed due to the regime breaking agreements and raising the ceiling of demands and inventing pretexts, such as the presence of terrorists and foreigners in Daraa al Balad to separate neighbourhoods and bombard the region.
The Iran factor
Iran, which spearheads the invading forces through the Fourth Division, supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah, the People's Army, the Radwan Forces, the Grand Envoy Regiment and the 30th Brigade, plays an important role in sabotaging the agreements with the aim of implementing its expansion and penetration plans in the south.
Daraa is second in terms of Iranian expansion and positioning in Syria, after Damascus and its environs.
Forces of the Fourth Division and the Iranian militias have attacked notable figures and clans from Daraa as they were returning from a meeting with Russian officers, and have sought to displace members of the negotiating committee, including the official spokesman to weaken the negotiating power of the neighbourhood.
Iran has succeeded in delaying reaching a settlement agreement in favour of the people, and has sent a clear message to other regions that they may face the same fate. Russia, meanwhile, has contributed in some way to deterring the Iranian militias from achieving their goals of displacing and harassing the people, by mediating and reaching an agreement at the last moment.
Despite the violent military force used by the regime against Daraa al Balad, it has failed to make a breakthrough and gain control over the neighbourhoods of Daraa al Balad while bombing only from a distance. And the negotiating team demonstrated endurance in difficult circumstances and flexibility in the discourse to protect the people and prevent displacement and bloodshed.
The people of Daraa al Balad believe their perseverance and resistance is an impregnable fortress defending all the cities in the Hauran region. They work to prevent the regime from destroying the symbolism of the Syrian revolution, the Omari Mosque, and to prevent any demographic change that Iran is seeking in the south.
The people of Daraa believe that, if the Iranian militias achieve their goals in Daraa then they will threaten the security of Jordan and control the Damascus - Amman trade lines. Moreover, if the regime is successful in Daraa, it will then devote itself to taking over Idlib. This may weaken the opposition’s hand in political negotiations and give more power to countries demanding normalisation with Assad and the distribution of reconstruction funds.
Finally, there is no doubt that a number of other factors, including the desire of the Russians to end the Daraa file, the failure of the international community to put an end to the regime, the absence of any opposition from Jordan to Iranian militias, as well as the lack of a political horizon for a solution in Syria, that influence the situation in Daraa.
The cohesion of the revolutionaries in the battlefront and the negotiators at the negotiating table, as well as their flexibility in the face of the Russians, could be an important step towards achieving real successes against the regime and repeating the experience of Busra al Sham in Daraa al Balad.
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