Republican Guard (Syria)

The Syrian Republican Guard (Arabic: الحرس الجمهوري al-Ḥaras al-Jamhūrīy), 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 was the only Syrian military unit allowed within the capital city before the war.[7]

Syrian Republican Guard Forces
الحرس الجمهوري
Republican Guard shoulder sleeve insignia
Active1976 – present
Country Syria
AllegiancePresident of Syria
BranchSyrian Arab Army
TypeMechanized infantry
RoleShock troops
Garrison/HQMount Qasioun, Damascus
tactical color marking
EngagementsSyrian Civil War
Maj. Gen. Shoaeb Suleiman
Deputy CommanderBrig. Gen. Mohamed Qasem
Supreme CommanderGen. Malik Aliaa[4]
Brigade CommandersMajor Gen. Issam Zahreddine (104th Brigade)  [5]
Brig. Gen. Mohammad Nayouf (105th Brigade)
Brig. Gen. Rukin Mohamed Khaddor (106th Brigade)
Bashar al-Assad
Adnan Makhlouf
Manaf Tlass (formerly) (105th Brigade)


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 until 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.[8] 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.[9]


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.

Order of Battle (2017)

In the last days of October 2017, Jane's Information Group published in its Jane's Intelligence Review an article on the current military situation of the Syrian Arab Army and its future challenges.[10]

The text reflects the transformation that the battle order has presented through the conflict, from the old order of battle of the soviet influence to the current one, more adapted to the new challenges.

Before 2011, it was difficult to access reliable information about the SAA because of the Damascus government’s sensitivity to potential espionage, particularly by Israel. However, the civil war has provided analysts with considerable insight into the Syrian military.[11]

  • 101st Infantry "Security" Regiment[12]
  • 102nd Infantry "Security" Regiment (part of 30th Division?)[13][14][15]
  • 103rd Commando Brigade
  • 104th Airborne Brigade (merged with the 800th Regiment)[16]
  • 105th Mechanized Brigade
  • 106th Mechanized Brigade
  • 124th Special Forces Brigade (part of 30th Division)[17]
  • 800th Regiment* (merged with the 104th brigade)[18]
  • 80th Battalion*
  • 83rd Battalion*
  • 416th Regiment*
  • 112th Brigade**
  • 117th Brigade**

The main ground combat unit of the Syrian military is often called a brigade or regiment and is between 500 and 1,000 strong. This is considerably smaller than a corresponding Western formation of that designation. For reasons of esprit de corps, these retain their pre-civil war titles as tank, infantry, mechanised, artillery, special forces, airborne, or Republican Guard brigades or regiments. However, their internal organisation is now very different from their pre-civil war structure.[19]

(*)They are subunits that were previously subordinated to one of the original brigades, but that for tactical reasons of the civil war became independent units that depend directly on the General Staff. They perform functions as minor task forces.

(**)New Creation

Other alleged units:-

  • Lionesses of Defense Armored Battalion
  • 100th Artillery Regiment
  • 102nd Commando Regiment[20]
  • 30th Division[21][22]
  • Popular Security and Support Forces[23]

Operational History in the 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.[24]

The unit has been accused by Human Rights Watch of engaging in human rights abuses during the conflict.[25] In 2012, Republican guard units played an important role in repelling opposition offensives on Damascus and Aleppo.[26][27]

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.

400 Syrian Republican Guard fighters were reportedly called in as reinforcements during the Battle of Al-Hasakah.[28]

The 103rd brigade reportedly operated in the Latakia province where (in 2013) it assisted other pro-government units in stopping opposition assaults on the Alawit heartland. The brigade also reportedly participated in offensive operations which partially expelled rebels from the Latakia province.[29]

The 124th brigade reportedly participated in the unsuccessful defense of the Tabqa airbase in 2014.[30] The brigade reportedly defended the Ithriya-Khanasser highway thus preserving a major supply line to Aleppo.[26] The brigade was reported in January 2018 directing the capture of the Al-Hass Plain and the Offensive towards Abu-Duhur from the north (Front of South´s Aleppo)[31]

The 104th brigade is well known in the media due to its multi-year ordeal in defending Deir ez-Zor.[32] Deployed to the area in late 2012, according to some sources[26] (other sources state that the brigade was not deployed to Deir ez-Zor before early 2014),[33] the brigade, along with other SAA elements, defended pro-government-held territory in Deir ez-Zor.[34] The brigade has been largely under siege since January 2015 (the Syrian Arab Air Force in cooperation with the Russian Aerospace forces maintain an air bridge).[35][36] In early 2018 reports emerged that the unit was transferred back to Damascus.[37]

In 2016 elements of the 102nd, 106th brigades and the 800th regiment were reported to have taken part in the successful Aleppo campaign which expelled opposition elements from the city.[38]

In late 2016 and early 2017, together with other pro-government units, the 800th regiment was reported to have stopped an ISIL offensive by defending the T4 airbase and preventing a possible ISIL assault on Homs.[39][40][41]

105th brigade was largely employed in Damascus and the surrounding areas, mainly focusing on the East Ghouta front[42][43] which has been an opposition stronghold for years, reportedly containing 25,000 opposition fighters.[44][45][46][47]

Following several deployments to the Aleppo front[48][49] the 106th brigade reportedly returned to the Damascus operating area where it continued combat operations.[50][51][52]

On October 18, 2017, Issam Zahreddine, a Major General leading the Syrian government's fight against ISIL in Deir ez-Zor and known as "Lion of the Republican Guard,"[53][54] was killed when a land mine struck his vehicle in the Hwaijet Saqer area of Deir ez-Zor's countryside during a military operation.[5][55][53]

Uniform and insignia

The Republican Guard uniform is distinct from the regular Army uniform. Service dress consists of red berets, rather than the standard black or green, red epaulettes, red lanyards, and brown leather belts with green camouflaged shoes. On ceremonial occasions, officers wear red peaked caps instead of a beret.

See also


  1. "Syrian rebel leader to Haaretz: Assad's opposition will secure chemical weapons". Haaretz. 28 May 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  2. Holliday, Joseph (March 2013). "The Assad Regime, From Counterinsurgency to Civil War Middle East Security Report 8" (PDF). Institute for the Study of War.
  3. ABC News. "Government Troops Advance in Syria's Largest City". ABC News. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  4. Leith Aboufadel (28 December 2018). "Syrian military names new commander of elite Republican Guard". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  7. MEIB (August 2000). "Syria's Praetorian Guards: A Primer". Middle East Intelligence Bulletin. 2 (7). Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  8. Paul, James (1990). Human rights in Syria. Human Rights Watch. p. 50.
  9. Bar, Shmuel (2006). "Bashar's Syria: The Regime and its Strategic Worldview" (PDF): 379, 384. Retrieved 23 June 2011. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. "Syrian Army Prepares For Post-Conflict Challenges" (PDF).
  11. Ripley, Tim (2017). Syrian army prepares for post-conflict challenges. Janes´s. p. 4.
  19. Ripley, Tim. "Syrian army prepares for post-conflict challenges" (PDF).
  20. "Ivan Sidorenko on Twitter".
  23. "Quwat Dir' Al-Amn Al-Askari: A Latakia Military Intelligence Militia". 3 September 2016.
  24. "Activists: Syrian rebels clash with elite troops". USA Today. Associated Press. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  25. "Appendix 1: Structure and Command of Armed Forces and Intelligence Agencies". Human Rights Watch.
  26. "Syrian Republican Guard: History And Capabilities". 6 April 2017.
  28. Leith Fadel. "Republican Guard Arrives in Al-Hasakah City to Forestall ISIS Advance". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  29. "Syrian Army's progress in Latakia since 2013". 26 October 2016.
  30. "124th Brigade - Today in Syria".
  31. "Distinguished Syrian Army brigade leads south Aleppo offensive against Islamist militias". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 19 January 2018. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  33. "Battlefront Syria: Deir ez-Zor".
  34. "The Stronghold of Deir Ezzor: All What You Need To Know About The Battle Against ISIS In Eastern Syria". 1 December 2016.
  35. "Two years of siege in Deir Ezzor -".
  36. "More Details On The Effort To Insert Syrian Airborne Troops Into Deir ez-Zor". 30 January 2017.
  39. "Elite Syrian Army Unit Deploys To Palmyra Countryside". 16 December 2016.
  40. "Complete battlefield update, map of Syrian War". 13 January 2017.
  41. "Fortress T4: An Airbase at War - bellingcat". 29 June 2015.
  44. "Syrian Army Reversed All Militant Gains In Eastern Damascus (Map, Videos)". 24 March 2017.
  45. "VIDEO: Syrian Army smashes militant-held Damascus district with missiles". 2 April 2017.
  46. "Complete Battle Map of Syria: October 2015 Update". 8 October 2015.
  48. "November 2015 Briefs - Jamestown".
  49. News, Masdar (4 May 2016). "Russian ground troops destroyed rebels in Aleppo as Syrian Army retakes vital fortification / Video".
  50. "Farsnews".
  51. "VIDEO: Islamist rebels foil Syrian Army assault on besieged suburb in east Damascus". 3 April 2017.
  52. "Combat footage: Syrian Army reinstates siege of Al-Qaboun district in east Damascus". 20 March 2017.
  55. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 October 2017. Retrieved 19 October 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Further reading

  • Kenneth M. Pollack, Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness 1948-91, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 2002, and Pollack's book reviewed in International Security, Vol. 28, No.2.
  • Richard Bennett, The Syrian Military: A Primer MEIB Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 8, August/September 2001

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