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Friday, August 7, 2020

Iraq Situation Report: July 29 - Aug. 5

 By Calvin Pugh, Nicole Millar, and Brian Carter with Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace

Key Takeaway: Iran-aligned actors continue to resist Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s campaign to steadily implement his core promises to the Iraqi people. Kadhimi demonstrated tangible success in holding security forces accountable for unlawful violence against protesters by arresting members of the Iran-aligned Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) and removing the group’s commander. Kadhimi fulfilled another central promise by setting a date for early elections in June 2021, drawing backlash from entrenched political elites who fear losing their power base through free and fair elections. Kadhimi still faces an uphill battle to hold these elections; Iraq’s parliament must pass a new elections law, draw electoral districts, and approve new rules for the Supreme Federal Court before the elections can be held. 

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Thursday, August 6, 2020

Syria Situation Report: July 22 - Aug. 4

By John Dunford and Will Christou (Syria Direct)

Key Takeaway: The COVID-19 outbreak in regime-held Syria is likely spreading at a significant rate and increasing internal economic and social pressures on the Assad regime. A regime official estimated there are over 112,000 cases in Greater Damascus alone. The regime is likely incapable of preventing the spread. The outbreaks in regime areas will likely spread to anti-Assad controlled areas in the northwest and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-held areas in the northeast, further threatening stability in those regions.

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Friday, July 31, 2020

Iraq Situation Report July 22-28, 2020

By Brian Carter, Nicole Miller, and Calvin Pugh with Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace

Key Takeaway: Iran’s Iraqi proxy militias are accelerating their campaign to constrain Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s attempts to reign in militias and reclaim Iraqi sovereignty. Militias diversified their attacks against Iraqi, US and opposition actors with not only rocket attacks but also the kidnapping of a well-known German national, the IED targeting of an Iraqi logistics convoy supporting the US-led Coalition, and the killing of protesters by Iranian-infiltrated Iraqi Security Forces. Meanwhile, the United States or Israel likely targeted two weapons depots belonging to Iran-aligned militias in Iraq as regional US- and Israeli-Iranian tensions increased. The combination of these kinetic activities and the resumption of mass protests calling for improved electricity services in the brutally hot Iraqi summer threaten to overwhelm Kadhimi’s precariously constructed government. 

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Friday, July 24, 2020

Iraq Situation Report: July 15-21, 2020

By Brandon Wallace and Katherine Lawlor

Key Takeaway: Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s efforts to preserve Iraqi sovereignty by shifting its regional relationships away from Iranian domination have been met with a mix of successes and setbacks. The hospitalization of the King of Saudi Arabia forced Kadhimi to cancel his symbolically important first planned foreign visit to Saudi Arabia on July 20. Iran capitalized on the cancellation, dispatching its foreign minister in a pre-planned visit to Baghdad and then hosting Kadhimi in Tehran for meetings with Iran’s Supreme Leader as Kadhimi’s de facto first foreign trip. The United States continued to pressure Gulf countries to increase their energy cooperation with Iraq even as Prime Minister Kadhimi faced domestic and foreign resistance from neighboring Iran. Demonstrators are holding Kadhimi responsible for Iraq’s insufficient electricity supply, diluting his popular support. Continued criminal activity by Iran-backed groups, including the kidnapping of a German activist in Baghdad and repeated threats toward Iraqi allies, will also damage Kadhimi’s ability to secure buy-in from regional and global partners.

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Syria Situation Report: July 7-21, 2020

By John Dunford Will Christou (Syria Direct)
Key Takeaway: Russia and Turkey briefly escalated against one another following an attack on a Russo-Turkish joint patrol in Idlib. A suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) struck a Russo-Turkish joint patrol along the M4 Highway, causing several injuries on July 14. Russia appears to have held Turkey accountable for failing to prevent the attack and conducted airstrikes targeting the Turkish and opposition-controlled city of al-Bab in northern Aleppo on July 15. Turkey was likely responsible for a suicide drone attack that struck Kurdish-led Asayish Internal Security Forces and Russian Military Police (MPs) in northern Hasakah Province the following day. Russia and Turkey did not kinetically escalate further, but future attacks on joint patrols may prompt a larger Russian escalation against Turkish forces and allies.
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Friday, July 17, 2020

Iraq Situation Report: July 8-14, 2020

By Katherine Lawlor and Brandon Wallace

Key Takeaway: Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s political maneuverability is increasingly constrained by resistance from Iran’s militia proxies and from protesters demanding better government services. Kadhimi directed elite forces to retake border crossings, advancing his campaign to reclaim Iraq’s border crossings from Iranian-backed militias with limited success. These security operations have not resulted in arrests or the permanent ousting of any militia groups to date but do signal to the United States that Kadhimi is taking the most aggressive actions he can without triggering violent retaliation from Iran’s proxy militias. Meanwhile, mass demonstrations broke out across the Shi’a-majority south to protest a lack of electricity service provisions after a months-long, COVID-19-induced downturn. Kadhimi continues to pursue new energy partnerships with Iraq’s neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia, but will be unable to provide the immediate jump in electricity supplies needed to quell the protests.

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Russia and Aligned Former Opposition Fighters Leverage Growing Anti-Assad Sentiment to Expand Control in Southern Syria

By Michael Land and Diana Barany
Key Takeaway: Russia and a group of reconciled former opposition fighters under its patronage are taking advantage of growing anti-Assad and anti-Iran sentiment to forcibly expand their influence in southern Syria independent of the regime in Damascus. A prominent Russian-backed former opposition commander announced the formation of a new “army” that plans to centralize forces across much of the province under his control. A newly established Russian-backed political body will likely parallel this new force. The creation of this new army and political body will likely increase Russian influence and could threaten the ability of the Assad regime and Iran to impose their will in this key region bordering US allies Israel and Jordan.

Russian-backed Former Opposition Fighters Capitalize on Anti-Regime Sentiment to Form New Regional “Army”
Russia, Iran, and Assad have competed for resources, power, and influence in the key region of Dera’a Province since the pro-Assad coalition recaptured the region in the summer of 2018.[1] Sporadic clashes and arrests between various Assad-, Iranian-, and Russian-backed forces are a regular occurrence, while anti-Assad insurgents have mounted a growing campaign to target pro-regime forces across the region since the regime takeover in 2018.[2] During the 2018 regime takeover, Assad relied on Russia to broker a series of so-called “reconciliation” agreements allowing pro-regime forces to move into many towns and villages without having to fight block-by-block.[3] While the terms of each individual agreement varied by location, many included provisions allowing opposition fighters to join pro-regime units to avoid arrest.[4] Perhaps the most prominent of these units is the Russian-backed Syrian Arab Army (SAA) 5th Corps, established in 2016.[5]

Russian- and Iranian-backed groups are competing, occasionally violently, over the same pool of recruits to expand their influence in Dera’a Province. Russia has made a particularly concerted effort to build and grow the 5th Corps using local and reconciled fighters.[6] Russia, Iran, and Assad are further attempting to leverage the forces they back to control key trade and smuggling routes between Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and the eastern desert to Iraq. This competition between Assad, Russia, and Iran escalated to a new level on June 20, when alleged Iranian-backed militants attacked a unit of Russian-backed Syrian forces comprised largely of former opposition fighters.[7] This roadside improvised explosive device (IED) attack targeted a bus carrying 40 members of the 8th Brigade of the Russian-backed Syrian Arab Army (SAA) 5th Corps killed 9 members and injured dozens.[8] An unspecified local source reportedly close to 8th Brigade leadership claimed that “Iran is directly responsible” for the attack. The source claimed the attack was meant to discourage defections from Iranian-backed Syrian groups to Russian-backed groups.[9] The location of the attack near Saida also indicates that control over key trade and smuggling routes was part of the motivation for the attack as Saida lies on a major road junction north of the Nassib border crossing with Jordan.

The day after the attack, over 2,000 people protested in the southeastern Dera’a town of Busra al-Sham, where the 8th Brigade is headquartered. Protesters called for the fall of Assad and the removal of Iranian-backed forces from the region in one of the largest public demonstrations in the province in the last two years.[10] Protests with similar demands have followed in several towns and villages across both eastern and western Dera’a Province since the June 20 attack.[11]

Buoyed by the ever-growing anti-Iran and anti-Assad sentiments in the region, Russian-backed leader of the 8th Brigade Ahmed al-Awdeh (aka Abu Hamza) addressed mourners and protesters on June 23 from a condolence tent dedicated to the victims of the June 20 IED attack. Awdeh said, “soon Horan [a region spanning much of Dera’a, Quneitra, and Suwayda Provinces] will be one body and one army, and this formation will not only protect Horan, but also will be the most powerful tool to protect Syria.”[12] Awdeh has not yet announced the exact size, scope, or timeline for this new formation, which ISW is tentatively referring to as the “Horan Army.” However, an unspecified former opposition commander and member of the Russian-backed Dera’a Central Negotiating Committee reported the army will form soon and consist of a “central body and command” representing unspecified areas of eastern and western Dera’a Province as well as the former opposition stronghold neighborhood of Dera’a al Balad in Dera’a City.[13] Whether this statement reflects a concrete agenda as opposed to more aspirational sentiments is unclear. However, any one component of such a reorganization coming to fruition would represent a major shift in the currently decentralized and localized security apparatus of Dera’a Province.

Ahmed al-Awdeh and Russia Build a Symbiotic Relationship in Dera’a Province
Awdeh led the Shabaab al-Sunnah opposition group prior to the regime takeover of southern Syria but has retained close ties to Russian forces following Shabaab al-Sunnah’s surrender to pro-regime forces in July 2018.[14] Shabaab al-Sunnah was a major component group of the Free Syrian Army (FSA)-branded Southern Front and controlled an area of southeastern Dera’a Province around the town of Busra al-Sham. Bursra al-Sham is notable for its large Shi’a population relative to the surrounding area.[15] Awdeh was one of the first opposition leaders to accept a Russian settlement and began handing Shabaab al-Sunnah’s heavy weaponry over to the Russian Military Police (MP) in early July 2018.[16] Awdeh likely saw the settlement as an opportunity to appease a militarily dominant Russia and secure himself a leading role in the newly established order. Subsequently, Awdeh and former opposition fighters joined the ranks of the SAA 5th Corps under a Russian promise to protect them from Assad loyalist retribution.[17] Through Awdeh, Russia was able to secure the eastern region of Dera’a Province and extend the SAA 5th Corps footprint in southern Syria.[18] Russia and Awdeh built a system of cooperation based on mutually favorable conditions, not loyalty, that remains in place to the present day.[19]

While Russia may not have initiated the move to build the Horan Army, Russia will likely support Awdeh in his efforts to build the formation. Russia may assess that current anti-Assad and anti-Iran sentiments in Dera’a Province will make countering the Horan Army more difficult both militarily and politically. The lack of similarly strong anti-Russian sentiment in the region presents Russia with an opportunity to leverage the Horan Army as a means of exerting Russian influence. Russia is also able to insulate itself from having to participate in the tactical-level abuses that have driven much of the local resentment toward Assad and Iran by employing local forces with some level of public legitimacy to engage in policing on its behalf. The Russian and Awdeh dynamic does not openly undermine the Syrian regime, but it adds another layer of complexity to the regime’s reconsolidation plans in southern Syria.[20]  Russia has further shown no signs of trying to stop Awdeh or replace him – moves the Kremlin would likely undertake if it suspected the Horan Army would become an obstacle.

5th Corps Units Assert Themselves after Awdeh’s Announcement of Horan Army
Ahmed al Awdeh is driving the 8th Brigade’s campaign to consolidate power in Dera’a under his control and is building a better position to engage with the Russians as a legitimate powerbroker in Dera’a. As events unfolded in late June, Awdeh seized upon increasing local discontent with the regime and Iranian-backed forces as an opportunity to pursue his goal of controlling larger areas of the Horan. Shortly after Awdeh’s announcement of the new Horan Army, forces under his command began to assert themselves against other pro-regime forces in Dera’a Province. 8th Brigade forces attacked an Iranian-linked Syrian Air Force Intelligence (SAFI) checkpoint in the town of Herak in eastern Dera’a Province to secure the release of an unknown detainee on June 25.[21]

The 8th Brigade later clashed with Syrian Military Intelligence (SMI) forces at a checkpoint in Mahajjeh, 37 km north of Dera’a City, on June 27.[22] The clashes resulted in the death of at least one 8th Brigade member and two SMI members.[23] The exchange was unusual, not only for taking place well outside the typical 8th Brigade areas of operation in southeastern Dera’a Province, but also because SMI has previously maintained positive relations with Russia, albeit not to the same extent as the 5th Corps.[24] The 5th Corps sent reinforcements to the area and seized two SMI checkpoints in Kahil and Saida, 12 km east of Dera’a City, the same day.[25] Again, the location of the clashes along the Dera’a-Suwayda highway near Saida could indicate Awdeh was attempting to consolidate control over trade routes at the edges of the 8th Brigade’s areas of operation. The 8th Brigade’s aggression against SMI indicates that Awdeh is willing to target forces with ties to Russia as well as Assad loyalists and Iranian-backed forces as part of his expansionist efforts.

Following this round of clashes in late June, civilians protested at the funeral of one of the 8th Brigade members, calling for the toppling of the Syrian regime, the release of detainees, and the removal of Iranian forces in the town of Kahil. Similar protest took place in Tafas and Sahwa on June 28.[26] The protests at 8th Brigade funerals underscore the public support for Awdeh and the forces he commands, even when the deaths were not the result of regime or Iranian targeting.

Two weeks after the 5th Corps clashes with Assad and Iranian-aligned forces, a “leaked” recording circulated in the media showing a new 8th Brigade training camp in the Busra al-Sham Citadel on July 12.[27] The 8th Brigade likely leaked the video intentionally to portray the unit’s professionalism and depict it as competent and organized. The new training camp reportedly hosts 900 recruits that are under the supervision of Awdeh’s commanders and will graduate in the presence of Russian officers at an unspecified date.[28]


Click the map below to enlarge.




New Russian-backed Political Initiatives Complement Military Actions

A Russian delegation reportedly arrived in Busra al Sham on July 12 to mediate and “ease the tension” in the area on June 28.[29] Awdeh reportedly set the withdrawal of all regime forces checkpoints from eastern Dera’a Province as a condition to solving the tension between the 8th Brigade and unspecified regime forces.[30] Russia may also be attempting to gain the goodwill of the population by beginning to address another major point of contention: the release of detainees. The Russian Center for Reconciliation opened an office in Dera’a City where locals can inquire and follow up on the status of the detainees on June 4.[31] The office reportedly was successful in releasing some detainees.[32] Regular clashes between Russian-backed units and other pro-regime forces remain ongoing despite the negotiations.[33] Protests aimed at the toppling of the Assad regime, removal of Iranian militias, and the release of detainees likewise continued in the western Dera’a towns of Tafas and Jiza on July 10.[34]
Members of the Russian-supported local negotiating body in Dera’a Province, the Dera’a Central Committee, reportedly met and agreed to unify the localized committee under one body. The newly unified committee, tentatively referred to as the “National Committee,” will reportedly “represent the population” and negotiate with the regime on behalf of the people.[35] Awdeh and two other Russian-affiliated former opposition commanders will reportedly lead the new National Committee along with nine representatives from Dera’a City and eastern and western Dera’a Province, similar to the reported structure of the Horan Army’s leadership.[36] The formal announcement of the National Committee was reportedly slated for June 12, but there have been no follow up reports. The announcement may have been delayed due to the assassination of a “leading” member of the Dera’a Central Committee in Jasim on June 12.[37]

Implications and Forecast
Russia remains entrenched in Syria, and Assad’s control over key regions such as the south remains weak as actors like Awdeh push for more control at the expense of Damascus. Anti-regime and anti-Iranian sentiment, along with al Awdeh’s growing popularity in Dera’a Province, paved the way for increased Russian entrenchment in southern Syria. Russia can use this power to further its campaign to establish itself as a peacemaker for local conflicts both in Syria and across the globe at the expense of the United States.[38] While Russia may not be conducting an overt anti-Iran or anti-Assad campaign in southern Syria, the abuses of the Assad regime and Iranian-backed forces against the local population and violations of the 2018 reconciliation agreements allow Russia to expand their footprint by leveraging the growing discontent with the Iranian and regime presence. The Russian effort to address disputes over detainees is likely an indirect attempt to undermine the Iranian and regime presence, as detainees are one of the main points of dispute between the local populace and those forces.

Should Awdeh succeed in his plan to create the new Horan Army and unify the local Dera’a Central Committees, he will substantially alter the balance of power in Dera’a Province and all of southern Syria. Other local movements in areas with strong anti-Assad and anti-Iran sentiment, such as the Druze population in Suwayda, may look to Russia for support in launching similar campaigns to expand their influence, or may even attempt to do so unilaterally. Russia is unlikely to allow Awdeh to operate independent of its goals and command of the 5th Corps in southern Syria. Awdeh’s popularity in Dera’a Province is a key advantage in advancing Russian efforts, but it also forces Russia to walk a tight line with Awdeh, lest his personal influence outweigh Russia’s ability to constrain him. Despite Russia’s military dominance in 2018, it was unable to secure western Dera’a Province to the same level it did in eastern Dera’a Province as it did not gain the same support from the other opposition commanders.[39] Awdeh remains driven by opportunity and not loyalty, indicating Russia may try to absorb this new army as a cohesive extension of the 5th Corps in Dera’a Province. Russia, through such a course of action, would attempt to prevent the unlikely situation in where Awdeh attempts to shed the Horan Army of its Russian patronage and become a wholly independent entity, answerable to neither Moscow nor Damascus.

While Russia will likely benefit from the creation of the Horan Army, Assad and Iran will likely suffer, as a unified Russian-supported army would likely outmatch many of their forces in the region. Russia may also attempt to balance out the Iranian presence in Dera’a Province, as a possible Israeli-Iranian escalation in the region does not serve Russian interests and investments in southern Syria.[40] Nonetheless, Iran and Assad could potentially attempt to mobilize and escalate kinetically in reaction to the creation of the Horan Army if they feel sufficiently threatened. Such an escalation would risk a larger unraveling of the security situation in the south. A mobilization of Iranian-backed forces could draw a response from Israel given the proximity of the contested areas in Syria to the Golan Heights, risking the potential for a larger regional escalation. Regardless of the long-term relationship between Russia and the Horan Army; Russia remains committed to a presence in the region for the foreseeable future. The events of late June demonstrate that Russia likely anticipates its presence growing rather than shrinking.

This Russian entrenchment poses risks to regional stability on the border of US allies Israel and Jordan and furthers Russia’s goals of building itself up as a mediator of regional conflicts. However, this entrenchment also presents opportunities for the United States. Long-term competition between Assad, Russia, and Iran imposes costs on all three regimes, all of which are already struggling under US sanctions. Russia taking a stronger stand against Iran in Syria’s south also increases the costs of Iran trying to build its presence in the region and limits the maneuverability of its proxies and access to key sources of income such as smuggling.




[1] Jennifer Cafarella with Jason Zhou, “Russia’s Dead-End Diplomacy in Syria,” Institute for the Study of War, November 21, 2019, http://www.understandingwar.org/report/russias-dead-end-diplomacy-syria.
[2] [“Nassib Crossing: Disputes over Control and Search for Illegal Financial Returns,”] Enab Baladi, March 29, 2020, https://www.enabbaladi.net/archives/373488; [“Militants Seize the Nassib Crossing from the Regime … with the Support of the 4th Division,”] Al Modon, March 19, 2020, https://www.almodon(.)com/arabworld/2020/3/19/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%8A%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%B4%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%B2%D8%B9-%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A8%D8%B1-%D9%86%D8%B5%D9%8A%D8%A8-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A8%D8%AF%D8%B9%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81%D8%B1%D9%82%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%A9; [“After Joining the Fourth Division and Military Security ... Tension and Clashes in the Daraawi Countryside between Fighters from the ‘Reconciliation and Settlement’ Factions,”] Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, April 11, 2019, https://www.syriahr.com/بعد-انضمامهما-إلى-الفرقة-الرابعة-والأ/318163/; [“The Fourth Division Raids the City of Inkhel in the Dera’a Countryside and Arrests a Former FSA Leader who Recently Joined the Ranks of the Tiger Militia,”] Horan Free League, March 4, 2019, https://www.horanfree(.)com/?p=3445.
[3] Jennifer Cafarella with Jason Zhou, “Russia’s Dead-End Diplomacy in Syria,” Institute for the Study of War, November 21, 2019, http://www.understandingwar.org/report/russias-dead-end-diplomacy-syria.
[4] Jennifer Cafarella with Jason Zhou, “Russia’s Dead-End Diplomacy in Syria,” Institute for the Study of War, November 21, 2019, http://www.understandingwar.org/report/russias-dead-end-diplomacy-syria; [“An Agreement Is Reached to Hand Over Weapons in the Area of Busra al-Sham and Return All State Institutions to It,”] SANA, July 6, 2018, https://sana(.)sy/?p=778394; [“Russia Meeting - Dera’a Agrees to Ceasefire, Hand Over of Heavy Weapons, Partial Withdrawal of Regime,”] Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, July 6, 2018, http://www.syriahr.com/?p=273602; Suleiman al-Khalidi and Laila Bassam, “South Syrian Rebels Agree Surrender Deal, Assad Takes Crossing,” Reuters, July 6, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria/syriagovernment-forces-close-to-seizing-jordan-border-crossing-pro-damascuscommander-idUSKBN1JW108; Suleiman al-Khalidi, “Syrian Rebels Say Army Besieging Their Enclave in Southern City Deraa,” Reuters, July 9, 2018, https:// www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-deraa/syrian-rebels-say-armybesieging-their-enclave-in-the-southern-city-of-deraa-idUSKBN1JZ0QU; Alice Su, “Confronting Horror at the Jordan-Syria Border,” The Atlantic, July 8, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/07/daraaassad-jordan-israel-rebels/564611/; [“The First Statement from ‘Central Operations’ After Signing an Agreement with Russia to End the Battles of the South,”] El Dorar, July 6, 2018, https://eldorar(.)com/node/123760; “Russia Will Guarantee Return of Displaced Syrians in South - Rebel Sources,” Reuters, July 6, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-displaced-idUSKBN1JW1X2; Omar Akour and Bassem Mroue, “Syrian Troops Recapture Vital Border Crossing with Jordan,” Associated Press, July 6, 2018, https://www.apnews.com/72bd66d3478e40f38979030930f3550b.  
[5] Gregory Waters, “The Lion and The Eagle: The Syrian Arab Army’s Destruction and Rebirth,” Middle East Institute, July 18, 2019, https://www.mei.edu/publications/lion-and-eagle-syrian-arab-armys-destruction-and-rebirth.
[6] Jennifer Cafarella with Jason Zhou, “Russia’s Dead-End Diplomacy in Syria,” Institute for the Study of War, November 21, 2019, http://www.understandingwar.org/report/russias-dead-end-diplomacy-syria.
[7] Scott Lucas, “Syria Daily: 9 Regime Troops Killed in Dera’a Bus Bombing – Reports,” EA Worldview, June 21, 2020, https://eaworldview.com/2020/06/syria-9-regime-troops-killed-daraa/; Abdullah Al-Jabassini, “Is Ahmad al-Oda Winning the ‘Hearts and Minds’ of Daraa’s People?” Middle East Institute, June 22, 2020, https://www.mei.edu/publications/ahmad-al-oda-winning-hearts-and-minds-daraas-people; [“In the Video, 15 Former Opposition Russian-Backed 5th Corps Fighters Were Killed in an Explosion in Dera’a.”] Step News Agency, June 20, 2020, https://stepagency-sy.net/2020/06/20/قتلى-لـ-الفيلق-الخامس-المدعوم-روسياً-ب/; [“Dead and Wounded from the 5th Corps by an Explosive Device in Dera’a,”] Halab Today TV, June 20, 2020, https://halabtodaytv(.)net/archives/147098; [“Dead and Wounded from the 5th Corps, East of Dera’a.. What is the Story?”] Horan Free League, June 20, 2020, https://www.horanfree.com/?p=6038.
[8] Scott Lucas, “Syria Daily: 9 Regime Troops Killed in Dera’a Bus Bombing – Reports,” EA Worldview, June 21, 2020, https://eaworldview.com/2020/06/syria-9-regime-troops-killed-daraa/; Abdullah Al-Jabassini, “Is Ahmad al-Oda Winning the ‘Hearts and Minds’ of Daraa’s People?” Middle East Institute, June 22, 2020, https://www.mei.edu/publications/ahmad-al-oda-winning-hearts-and-minds-daraas-people; [“In the Video, 15 Former Opposition Russian-Backed 5th Corps Fighters Were Killed in an Explosion in Dera’a.”] Step News Agency, June 20, 2020, https://stepagency-sy.net/2020/06/20/قتلى-لـ-الفيلق-الخامس-المدعوم-روسياً-ب/; [“Dead and Wounded from the 5th Corps by an Explosive Device in Dera’a,”] Halab Today TV, June 20, 2020, https://halabtodaytv(.)net/archives/147098; [“Dead and Wounded from the 5th Corps, East of Dera’a.. What is the Story?”] Horan Free League, June 20, 2020, https://www.horanfree.com/?p=6038.
[10] [“Gathered Bulletin on Sunday for All Field and Military Events in Syria 21-06-2020,”] Shaam News Network, June 22, 2020, www.shaam.org/news/bulletins/نشرة-حصاد-يوم-الأحد-لجميع-الأحداث-الميدانية-والعسكرية-في-سوريا-21-06-2020.html.
[11] [“Demonstration Calling for the Overthrow of the Regime and the Release of Detainees in Dera’a,”] Halab Today TV, June 29, 2020, https://halabtodaytv(.)net/archives/148284; [“With Chants of Overthrowing Assad.. A Funeral for the 5th Corps in Dera’a,”] Horan Free League, June 28, 2020. https://www.horanfree(.)com/?p=6171; [“Evening Demonstrations in Tafas and al-Sahwah Demand the Departure of Assad and Iran,”] Baladi News, June 28, 2020, https://www.baladi-news.com/ar/articles/62258/مظاهرات-مسائية-في-"طفس-والسهوة"-تطالب-برحيل-الأسد-وإيران. 
[12] “Video | Russian-Backed Al-Awda and One of the Most Prominent Figure of Reconciliation with Regime in Daraa Talks about Formation of “Army of Horan” Soon in Southern Syria,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 24, 2020, https://www.syriahr.com/en/171420/; [“Ahmed al-Awdeh Talks about the Formation of the ‘Horan Army’ Soon (Video),”] Enab Baladi, June 24, 2020, https://www.enabbaladi.net/archives/395828; “Ahmed al-Awda..Russia’s Spoiled Boy to Form “an Army” Southern Syria,” Enab Baladi, June 27, 2020, https://english.enabbaladi.net/archives/2020/06/ahmed-al-awda-russias-spoiled-boy-to-form-an-army-southern-syria/; [“Soon a United Army in Dera’a!”] Horan Free League, June 23, 2020, https://www.horanfree.com/?p=6066.
[13] [“Ahmed al-Awdeh Talks about the Formation of the ‘Horan Army’ Soon (Video),”] Enab Baladi, June 24, 2020, https://www.enabbaladi.net/archives/395828.
[14] Abdullah al-Jabassini, “Rampant Violence, Military Escalation, and the Role of Intermediaries in Daraa, Syria,” Middle East Institute, June 1, 2020, https://www.mei.edu/publications/rampant-violence-military-escalation-and-role-intermediaries-daraa-syria; “Ahmed al-Awda..Russia’s Spoiled Boy to Form “an Army” Southern Syria,” Enab Baladi, June 27, 2020, https://english.enabbaladi.net/archives/2020/06/ahmed-al-awda-russias-spoiled-boy-to-form-an-army-southern-syria/; [“Ahmed al-Awdeh Announces the Formation of an Army to Protect Horan … Find out the Details,”] Halab Today TV, June 26, 2020, https://halabtodaytv(.)net/archives/147924.
[15] “Shabab Al Sunna Forces Accept Russian Conditions Separately and Join Fifth Corps,” Nedaa Souriya, July 2, 2020, https://www.nedaa-sy.com/en/news/7047; Tom Rollins, “FSA Faction Accused of Torture and Murder in Southern Syria,” Middle East Eye, October 24, 2016, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/fsa-faction-accused-torture-and-murder-southern-syria; [“21 Military Formations Merged in Dera’a under the Name of the Sunni Youth Forces,”] El Dorar, August 22, 2016, https://eldorar(.)com/node/102049.
[16] “Shabab Al Sunna Forces Accept Russian Conditions Separately and Join Fifth Corps,” Nedaa Souriya, July 2, 2020, https://www.nedaa-sy.com/en/news/7047; Abdullah al Jabassini, “From Rebel Rule to a Post-Capitulation Era in Daraa Southern Syria: The Impacts and Outcomes of Rebel Behaviour During Negotiations,” European University Institute, January, 2019, https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/60664/RSCAS_2019_06.pdf; [“Free Syrian Army and Russia Reach Final Agreement on Daraa,’] Smart News Agency, 06 July 2018, https://smartnews-agency.com/en/wires/2018-07-06-free-syrian-army-and-russia-reach-final-agreement-on-daraa.
[17] Abdullah al Jabassini, “From Rebel Rule to a Post-Capitulation Era in Daraa Southern Syria: The Impacts and Outcomes of Rebel Behaviour During Negotiations,” European University Institute, January, 2019, https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/60664/RSCAS_2019_06.pdf; Abdullah al-Jabassini, “From Insurgents to Soldiers: The Fifth Assault Corps in Daraa Southern Syria,” Middle East Directions, May 14, 2019, https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/62964/RR_2019_09_EN.pdf;
[“Dera’a: Individual Agreements with Separate Clauses,”] Al Modon, July 17, 2018, https://www.almodon(.)com/arabworld/2018/7/17/%D8%A F%D8%B1%D8%B9%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7 %D9%82%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%85%D9%86%D9%81%D8%B1% D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D8%A8%D9%86%D9%88%D8%AF-%D8%BA%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%B6%D8%A9; [“Dera’a Province in Southern Syria Witnesses New Arrests Targeting More Citizens by the Regime’s Intelligence Despite ‘Reconciliation’,”] Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, October 1, 2018, http://www.syriahr.com/?p=286012; [“Assad’s Elements Slap Reconciled Fighters in Dera’a,”] El Dorar, June 21, 2019, https://eldorar(.)com/node/136848; [“Despite Settlement Cards, Regime, Russia, and Iran Are Chasing Reconciled Rebels and Thousands of Young Syrians Are Terrified of Conscription,”] Arabic Post, December 10, 2018, https://arabicpost(.)net/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3 %D8%AE%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1/2018/12/10/%D8%B3%D9%88%D 8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AC%D9%8 6%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D9%84%D8%B2%D 8%A7%D9%85%D9%8A/; [“Obsession with Arrests Haunts the People of Southern Syria One Year After the Regime Returned,”] Asharq al-Awsat, July 24, 2019, https://aawsat.com/home/article/1826881/%D9%87%D8%A7% D8%AC%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%AA%D9 %82%D8%A7%D9%84-%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AF- %D8%A3%D9%87%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A-%D8%AC%D9% 86%D9%88%D8%A8-%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A7- %D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AF-%D8%B3%D9%86%D8%A9- %D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%AF%D8%A9- %D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%85; “Lessons from the Syrian State’s Return to the South,” International Crisis Group, February 24, 2019, https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/eastern-mediterranean/syria/196-lessons-syrian-states-return-south; [“After the Deadline for Settlement, Assad Arrested Fifth Corps Leaders and Fighters in Dera’a,”] Zaman al-Wasl, June 29, 2019, https://www.zamanalwsl.net/news/article/107579/; [“After an Israeli Meeting with the Fifth Corps, Arrests Target Leaders in the 4th Division in Southern Syria,”] Nedaa Souriya, July 3, 2019, https://nedaa-sy.com/news/14486.
[18] Abdullah al-Jabassini, “Rampant Violence, Military Escalation, and the Role of Intermediaries in Daraa, Syria,” Middle East Institute, June 1, 2020, https://www.mei.edu/publications/rampant-violence-military-escalation-and-role-intermediaries-daraa-syria
[19] Abdullah al-Jabassini, “Rampant Violence, Military Escalation, and the Role of Intermediaries in Daraa, Syria,” Middle East Institute, June 1, 2020, https://www.mei.edu/publications/rampant-violence-military-escalation-and-role-intermediaries-daraa-syria ; “Ahmed al-Awda..Russia’s Spoiled Boy to Form “an Army” Southern Syria,” Enab Baladi, June 27, 2020, https://english.enabbaladi.net/archives/2020/06/ahmed-al-awda-russias-spoiled-boy-to-form-an-army-southern-syria/
[21] [“Dera’a .. an Arrest Campaign against a Former Local Council President,”] Enab Baladi, June 25, 2020, https://www.enabbaladi.net/archives/396319; [“The 8th Brigade Besieges a Barrier of Assad’s Forces East of Dera’a!” Horan Free League, June 25, 2020, https://www.horanfree(.)com/?p=6088.
[22] “Daraa | Seven Regime Soldiers and 5th Corps Fighters Killed During Clashes, and Regime Forces Expelled from Towns of Eastern Countryside,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 27, 2020, https://www.syriahr.com/en/172183/; “Tension and Military Reinforcement in Rural Daraa | Clashes Erupt between Regime Forces and 5th Corps, Leaving One Person Dead and Several Injured,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 27, 2020, https://www.syriahr.com/en/172170/; [“The 5th Corps Seizes Checkpoints from the Regime in Dera’a after Clashes that Killed People,”] Enab Baladi, June 28, 2020, https://www.enabbaladi.net/archives/396822; [“Deaths from the 5th Corps and Security Apparatus in Clashes North of Dera’a,”] Radio al-Kul, June 28, 2020, https://www.radioalkul(.)com/p325428/.
[23] “Daraa | Seven Regime Soldiers and 5th Corps Fighters Killed During Clashes, and Regime Forces Expelled from Towns of Eastern Countryside,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 27, 2020, https://www.syriahr.com/en/172183/; Omar Qusay, [“After Killing Two of Its Members, the 5th Corps Takes Control of the Regime's Checkpoints in Dera’a,”] Baladi News, June 27, 2020, https://www.baladi-news.com/ar/articles/62220/بعد-مقتل-اثنين-من-عناصره..-الفيلق-الخامس-يسيطر-على-حواجز-للنظام-في-درعا; [“Dead and Wounded in Clashes between the 5th Corps and the Regime Forces in Dera’a,”] Syria TV, June 28, 2020, http://syria(.)tv/%D9%82%D8%AA%D9%84%D9%89-%D9%88%D8%AC%D8%B1%D8%AD%D9%89-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%AA%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%83%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81%D9%8A%D9%84%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AE%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%B3-%D9%88%D9%82%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A8%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%B9%D8%A7; [“Deaths from the 5th Corps and Security Apparatus in Clashes North of Dera’a,”] Radio al-Kul, June 28, 2020, https://www.radioalkul(.)com/p325428/.
[24] Ahmed al-Majarish, [“The return of the people of southern Syria who were transferred to fight in Libya ..!”] Horan Free League, April 13, 2020, https://www.horanfree(.)com/?p=5470.
[25] “Following the Killing of Two of Its Members | 5th Corps Captures Military Intelligence Checkpoint on Damascus-Daraa Road,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 27, 2020, https://www.syriahr.com/en/172174/; [“Dera’a .. Clashes between the Assad Forces and the 5th Corps and the Latter Controls the Checkpoints in Saida and Kahil,”] Zaman al Wasl, June 27, 2020, https://www.zamanalwsl.net/news/article/125122/; Omar Qusay, [“After Killing Two of Its Members, the 5th Corps Takes Control of the Regime's Checkpoints in Dera’a,”] Baladi News, June 27, 2020, https://www.baladi-news.com/ar/articles/62220/بعد-مقتل-اثنين-من-عناصره..-الفيلق-الخامس-يسيطر-على-حواجز-للنظام-في-درعا; [“Dead and Wounded in Clashes between the 5th Corps and the Regime Forces in Dera’a,”] Syria TV, June 28, 2020, http://syria(.)tv/%D9%82%D8%AA%D9%84%D9%89-%D9%88%D8%AC%D8%B1%D8%AD%D9%89-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%AA%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%83%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81%D9%8A%D9%84%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AE%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%B3-%D9%88%D9%82%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A8%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%B9%D8%A7.
[26] [“Demonstration Calling for the Overthrow of the Regime and the Release of Detainees in Dera’a,”] Halab Today TV, June 29, 2020, https://halabtodaytv(.)net/archives/148284; [“With Chants of Overthrowing Assad.. A Funeral for the 5th Corps in Dera’a,”] Horan Free League, June 28, 2020. https://www.horanfree(.)com/?p=6171; [“Evening Demonstrations in Tafas and al-Sahwah Demand the Departure of Assad and Iran,”] Baladi News, June 28, 2020, https://www.baladi-news.com/ar/articles/62258/مظاهرات-مسائية-في-"طفس-والسهوة"-تطالب-برحيل-الأسد-وإيران. 
[27] [“A Leaked Recording Shows the Conversion of Busra al Sham Castle into a Training Camp in Daraa Countryside,”] Nabaa Media Foundation, 12 July 2020, http://nabaa-sy(.)net/2020/07/it/
[28] [“A Leaked Recording Shows the Conversion of Busra al Sham Castle into a Training Camp in Daraa Countryside,”] Nabaa Media Foundation, 12 July 2020, http://nabaa-sy(.)net/2020/07/it/
[29] [“Growing tension in Daraa | Large Russian Delegation Arrives in Bosra Al-Sham,”] Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 28, 2020, https://www.syriahr.com/en/172215/
[31] [“Russia is Moving the File of the ‘Detainees’ in Daraa… Will it Produce a Result?,”] Horan Free League, 14 June 2020, https://www.horanfree(.)com/?p=5967
[32] [“Russia is Moving the File of the ‘Detainees’ in Daraa… Will it Produce a Result?,”] Horan Free League, 14 June 2020, https://www.horanfree(.)com/?p=5967
[33] [“Gunmen of the 5th Corps Beat Regime Soldier at Checkpoint in Daraa’s Bosr al Harir.”] Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 09 July 2020, https://www.syriahr.com/en/173968/ ; [“ Uncertainty Surrounds the Kidnapping of Two Members of the 5th Corps in Eastern Countryside,”] Syrian Observatory for Humans Rights, 11 July 2020, https://www.syriahr.com/en/174301/
[35] [“The Agreement on a Unified Committee will Lead Negotiations with the Regime and Russia,”] Nabaa Media Foundation, July 9, 2020 http://nabaa-sy(.)net/2020/07/la/
[36] [“The Agreement on a Unified Committee will Lead Negotiations with the Regime and Russia,”] Nabaa Media Foundation, July 9, 2020 http://nabaa-sy(.)net/2020/07/la/
[38] Jennifer Cafarella with Jason Zhou, “Russia’s Dead-End Diplomacy in Syria,” Institute for the Study of War, November 21, 2019, http://www.understandingwar.org/report/russias-dead-end-diplomacy-syria.
[39] Abdullah al Jabassini, “From Rebel Rule to a Post-Capitulation Era in Daraa Southern Syria: The Impacts and Outcomes of Rebel Behaviour During Negotiations,” European University Institute, January, 2019, https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/60664/RSCAS_2019_06.pdf