Tough Chechen Commandos Find Job in Running Drinking Water to Damascus

The Chechen special ops troops (whose deployment to Syria was first disclosed by debkafile on Dec. 8 2016) arrived in the war-torn country without employment. Lt. Gen Alexander Zhuraviev, commander of Russian forces in Syria, had no idea what to do with this windfall.
The three battalions of some 1,000 elite Chechen soldiers are highly trained in urban warfare; some had spent the last two years fighting in eastern Ukraine. Since Chechen law forbids the posting of army conscripts outside the republic, the soldiers assigned to Syria were fitted out in the uniforms of its Interior Ministry’s security forces.
After keeping the Chechens hanging about, Gen. Zhuraviev finally found an assignment for two of the battalions. He sent them to Wadi Barada west of Damascus, a tiny village of 4,000 inhabitants of disproportionately high strategic importance, because situated within their boundaries is the Ain al-Fijah spring, which is the main source of drinking water for Damascus’ 5.5 million inhabitants and the surrounding region.
The Wada Barada village changed hands on Jan. 28, when the Syrian army and its allies took it back from rebel forces. Although the heavy clashes for control of the location were interrupted by the Dec. 30 ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey, sporadic fighting continued after a deal was negotiated to restore water to Damascus.
Under that deal, teams were to repair the infrastructure of the water supply system supplying the capital, in exchange for a cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of rebel fighters.
What happened next was that the rebels did indeed withdraw, but were quickly replaced by pro-Iranian Shiite militias and a small, armed Hizballah unit, which muscled in to assume responsibility for the spring.
In no time, the local Sunni population was up in arms against the intruders. They refused to knuckle under to Shiite officers, whom they regarded as foreign interlopers in their country and its affairs.
At that point, Gen. Zhuraviev hit on the very job for the Chechens. Capitalizing on their reputation as fearsome and savage fighters, he decided they were just the ticket for sorting out the Wadi Barada crisis.
After that, the Russian general used the Chechens to put down any troubles cropping up between the pro-Iranian Shiites and Hizballah and the local Syrian Sunni Muslims. He positioned them as a solid barrier between the warring camps to deter both from breaking out into full-scale violence.
Even amid the chaotic twists and turns of the Syrian conflict, no one could have imagined a year ago that the rough-and-ready Chechen commandos would find useful employment in keeping the flow of drinking water running from Damascus taps, or as an umpire between rival Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

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