Since the Revolution began in 2011 the Syrian Army has been blighted by defections, desertions and combat fatalities across the country. As a result, those allied to the Syrian regime have filled the gap and the Assad regime now relies on many militia groups as their ground-forces. Most are non-Syrian, many are Shia jihadis, paid for and commanded by Iran. These militia are highly sectarian. Following a programme known as “Shiaization”, they “Shia-ize” areas they occupy, focussing usually on the mosques.
Often these ground-forces do not know the terrain and cannot hold it sufficiently, which is why the regime is so dependent on Russian airstrikes. These airstrikes follow a scorched-earth policy, destroying entire areas including essential infrastructure, so the population is forcedly displaced. Incendiary weapons resembling phosphorus and cluster bombs are often used in addition to heavy and indiscriminate airstrikes, all of which cause high civilian casualties.