Country Listing

Syria Table of Contents


Republican Guard

Syria also had a Republican Guard, which was responsible for Assad's security. Together with the Defense Companies, the Republican Guard provided bodyguards assigned on the basis of personal loyalties and affiliations to leading members of the regime and top officials. The Republican Guard was commanded by Adnan Makhluf, the president's brother-in-law. Political allies and associates of Rifaat al Assad, on the other hand, were given bodyguards from the Defense Companies.

As Saiqa

A third organization, As Saiqa (The Thunderbolt), was formed in 1966 by the pro-Syrian Baath Party National Conference as a military wing of the Palestinian faction of the Syrian Baath Party. Although ostensibly under the umbrella of the PLO (it is represented on the PLO Executive Committee and Military Department), As Saiqa was firmly under Syrian Army control. In 1987 As Saiqa was led by three officials: Isam al Qadi, the secretary general, Muhammad al Khalifa, the representative on the PLO Executive Committee and Military Department, and Majid Muhsin, the head of operations in Lebanon. Muhsin was the brother of Zuhair Muhsin, who was appointed head of As Saiqa in 1970 by Assad, following the new regime's purge of its Palestinian leadership in an attempt to place As Saiqa firmly under Syrian Army control. Zuhair Muhsin was killed in July 1979 by an unknown assailant in Cannes, France.

As Saiqa's Palestinian credentials have depended on its ability to balance its PLO activities with the state policies of its Baathist Syrian sponsors. As Saiqa's special units participated on Syria's behalf in some of the Syrian-Palestinian clashes during the Lebanese Civil War, in particular in the Syrian siege of Damur, previously a Maronite township, but later occupied by the PLO and the Palestinians, who had set up camps and headquarters there. Many of As Saiqa's troops defected to other Palestinian guerrilla groups during these clashes in early June 1976. In July-August 1976, the troops that remained switched sides and assisted in the defense of the Palestinian Tall az Zaatar refugee camp against Phalangist attack. Units of As Saiqa participated in the Syrian-backed 1983 armed rebellion against Arafat's leadership by dissident elements within the PLO. By 1983, observers estimated that 70 percent of As Saiqa's members were Syrians.

Data as of April 1987