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Is Russia behind Syria's security apparatus reform?

The latest changes at the top levels of Syria's military and intelligence structures point to Russian influence, but was it Bashar al-Assad's game plan all along?
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The latest appointments and changes in the top echelons of Syria’s military and security institutions have been viewed in the region as the result of Russian military pressure on Damascus. It's likely that Moscow does indeed seek to transform Syria's security institutions and to diminish Iranian influence in the country. However, the actual role of Russia should not be overestimated. Such staff-related changes are frequently due to the Syrian regime’s efforts to redistribute authority and, possibly, to receive benefits from foreign actors amid controversies between Damascus' allies.

The latest dramatic change took place July 7, though it has not been confirmed by pro-Bashar al-Assad media outlets. One of Assad's confidants, Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, a Sunni and the head of the National Security Bureau, was appointed vice president for security affairs. Another influential official, Maj. Gen. Jamil Hassan, an Alawi and the head of the Air Force Intelligence Directorate, resigned.

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