The 4th Division of the Syrian regime’s army is an elite formation that has undertaken war economy activities using businessmen, brokers and smugglers. Under the leadership of Maher al-Assad, it is gradually taking over trade in scrap materials, convoy protection and the levying of fees on the transit of goods. Additionally, for a period of time, it also controlled the management of vital facilities, such as the ports of Tartus and Latakia.
To what extent has the conflict been an opportunity to increase the importance of the Fourth Division? What exactly is the economic network that was formed and who are its most prominent actors? What are the implications of its increasingly involvement in war economy activities?
Basing on interviews with experts, economists, merchants, defected officers and workers in the 4th Division and its security office, and information available on websites and social media, this study assesses how this hegemony remains dependent on relationships with Russia and the continued support of the presidential palace.