As a result, Syria is developing a kind of warlord world familiar to anyone who followed the Lebanese civil war (1975-1989). The country is broken up into armed fiefdoms.
On the part of the government, the militia phenomenon goes beyond the “Shabiha” movement of armed gangs that arose in the early stages of the conflict. Allies include militias identified with localities or ethnic or religious groups and Shiite units from Iraq. Financial Times says Iran pays Syrians double regular army salary to join militias it sponsors.
For the rebels, dozens of factions, some radical Sunni jihadists like al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, some less or non-Islamic oriented but anti-Assad nonetheless and some with a strong foreign component, including the Islamic State. All try to coordinate when needed. The indiscipline of many have led to awful abuses on both sides.
Plus, of course, there is Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, dispatched by Iran to buttress Assad’s regular army.
Knowing who’s who at any moment requires a spaghetti of organizational charts. Worse for Syria, it means a long period of near anarchic warfare.
From Carnegie Endowment, the original pro-Assad militias.
The following all from Syria Comment, the best Syrian affairs blog I know of:
Syria’s copy-cat Hezbollah.
The Druze take up arms.
The government organizes a militia along Mediterranean coast.
Financial Times checks in with Iran payments.