A recent Reuters
report reveals that the Syrian government is sending members of pro-Assad militias to receive training in Iran. Unlike regular soldiers from the government's military forces, these militias are being trained to utilize guerrilla warfare tactics in Assad's latest attempt to end the two year uprising that has plunged Syria into a vicious civil war. These militias are not part of the government's official forces, but fight alongside of Assad's troops against the Free Syrian Army. Though the Assad regime has denied sending such militias to receive training in Iran, interviews coming out of the region suggest otherwise. As one source
It is unclear how many former shabbiha fighters have been sent on courses in Iran, but some interviewees said they had assembled in groups of around 400 before being flown to Iran in smaller numbers. They believed the offer of training was open to many pro-Assad militias operating across Syria.
However, Assad's regime is not the only actor in the civil war to turn to bordering countries for assistance and training. The Associated Press
highlights that Syrian rebels have been actively training in Jordan since at least October. Though the government of Jordan publicly claims that it has no interest in being part of the Syrian conflict, Jordan's support of rebel forces highlights the increasing complex sectarian nature of the conflict. The government of Jordan appears to be training rebels who are largely Sunni Muslims. The intended purpose of these trained fighters will be to keep the border between Syria and Jordan secure. Furthermore, Jordanian officials hope to off balance the presence of Al-Qaeda linked fighters; who are among the many groups that are loosely united against the Assad government.
What Assad plans to do about Jordanian support for the FSA remains unclear. In a similar instance, Lebanon was also believed to be training FSA fighters within its borders. On March 18th
, Syrian military aircraft crossed into Lebanon to fire on what they believed to be rebel bases operating near the border. Continuing this line, AP
reports that the Assad government has threatened that Jordan is 'playing with fire' by supporting the FSA.
A recent Red Cross
report argues that the situation continues to deteriorate rapidly, having now reached around 70,000 casualties. As the civil war rages into its second year, such revelations of cross-border training on both sides support the findings of the Red Cross. With both the Assad forces and the FSA equipping and training forces in neighboring nations, the conflict is becoming ever more complex and at risk of deteriorating even worse as it draws in more regional actors.