The SSNP’s Military: The Eagles of the Whirlwind & Their Emblem – By Jesse McDonald

The SSNP’s Military: The Eagles of the Whirlwind
By Jesse McDonald
For Syria Comment – June 5, 2017

Nusur al-Zawba’a and Some Figures from Syria Since 2016

The Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), like many political parties in the region, also possesses an armed wing.  In this case, the SSNP’s military wing is called Nusur al-Zawba’a which translates to ‘Eagles of the Whirlwind.’  The Whirlwind here (pictured below) is a reference to the vortex / hurricane-like symbol front and center of the SSNP’s logo.  More on the origins of the Whirlwind (zawba’a) in the piece immediately following this one.

SSNP’s emblem

Much has been written on the roles various militias and National Defense Forces (NDF) play fighting on Assad’s side.  The Eagles of the Whirlwind, being one of these groups fighting with the Syrian regime as well as Hezballah, also, deserves attention and analysis.  However, diving into the groups history and motives for fighting is beyond the scope of this article.  What will be touched upon is a brief overview of these fighters who have died since the beginning of 2016.  This article will point out which towns SSNP members were actively engaged in combat and areas with the highest casualty rates, what the average age was for those who have fallen, and when they joined the party.  Important disclosure: due to lack of information on several party members, this data is not fully complete.  Nevertheless, the intention is to offer a glimpse of recent trends and structure some type of background so the reader can better comprehend the SSNP’s combat role in Syria’s war.

Let’s begin with 2016:

Although active on numerous fronts, the year 2016 did not witness a particularly high mortality rate as a result of armed activities against rebels and jihadists (this is in no way downplaying any low figures or loss of life).  There were a total of eighteen deaths categorized into the following cities/governorates:

Aleppo- 1

Raqqa countryside- 1

Hama- 1

Douma- 2

Homs- 3

Latakia- 10

As one can notice, Latakia registered the highest casualty total out of any province in Syria during 2016.  Five of these ten deaths occurred on February 19 in Kinsaba- one of them being Adonis Nasr (known as ‘Ado’) – who led various media operations for the Eagles of the Whirlwind.[1]  Such operations included recording fighters’ will or testimonials and preparing their autobiographies and ‘martyrdom’ posters.  He also helped run the party’s daily al-Bina’.   The countryside of Latakia was a particular hot spot for the Eagles Whirlwind in 2016, with many battles taking place in the mountains, strategically situated along Turkey’s border and also neighboring Idlib province.  The coastal highlands is crucial for Assad in blocking rebel-held supply lines, linking up to government controlled areas in Hama and creating a buffer between Alawite dominated cities in Latakia and Tartus (Assad’s heartland).  In fact, all but two of the ten deaths in Latakia countyside transpired in Kinsaba (the others died in Kubani).

Photo from Adonis Nasr’s funeral in Lebanon

Five out of six locations mentioned above (where there have been casualties) are areas SSNP fighters have been heavily active.  The one exception is Raqqa’s countryside.  In June 2016, Syrian government troops alongside allied militias, briefly entered Raqqa province only to be repelled and pushed out shortly afterwards by the so-called Islamic State.  It is with this brief incursion a member of the Eagles Whirlwind perished.  However, similar to other examples, it appears this fighter, although an SSNP member, was fighting more with the Syrian army than a powerful SSNP contingent.

Are SSNP members fighting in Syria universally younger or older?  The average age of those who died fighting with the SSNP was around 28 years old.  The oldest, forty-two, was killed near Douma while the youngest was eighteen years of age and died in Homs.  Of the eighteen fighters mentioned, at least seven were thirty years of age or older.  However, I was not able to determine the age of five fighters.

Turning now to party membership.  Ten out of these eighteen SSNP fighters had a clear date as to when they joined the party.  Only two joined the Eagles of the Whirlwind before 2011 while the other eight were either in 2013 or some time after.  I mention 2011 in an attempt to discover whether a pattern emerges between the beginning of the war and overall length of party membership.  Several signed up as recently as 2015 (four people with the possibility of six), and thus, presents an interesting development for analyzing certain fighters on the front lines compared to their duration of time in the SSNP.  Out of the eight which could not be determined, two fighters were around the age of twenty when they died.  Assuming they enrolled in the Syrian army first at eighteen, it is most likely safe to say they joined after 2013 as well.  Albeit on a very small scale, this shows members are signing up to join SSNP’s ranks fairly recently (at least based on information from those who have died).  As opposed to those who have been party members for an extended period of time, prior to violence breaking out, losing their lives on the front lines.  Granted, this does not paint a complete accurate picture of overall party membership since just the fatalities are being examined.

There is debate surrounding to what degree the SSNP is a crucial fighting element for the Syrian army.  Adding to any confusion over just how independent the SSNP is from the Syrian army, half of SSNP fighters who died in 2016 only joined the Eagles Whirlwind after several military courses with the army.  Considering many weapons and vehicles in SSNP’s arsenal are courtesy of the Syrian army, and that the two fight side-by-side on several fronts, more analysis is needed to determine how much leeway members have in joining without first serving in the army.  Besides wearing seemingly identical combat fatigues at times, rendering them indistinguishable in appearance minus SSNP patches or flags, it is difficult to resolve how formidable their fighting prowess is outside of any Syrian army formations.  In stark contrast to the Tiger Forces or Desert Hawks and obviously Hezballah for example.  One of these SSNP members was still in the Syrian army reserves while another fought with the army where he was killed in Aleppo.  Hence, at times it appears the lines are blurred as to the sovereignty and independence of those wearing the al-zawba’a patch.  Another important disclosure: information on prior military service before fighting with the SSNP was not available for half of the deaths that occurred in 2016.

Finally, almost no one fought and died where they were born (including even geographically in the same province).  Granted, such data does not imply fighters were never active at some point near or in the same towns they were born.  This is mentioned because several speculations center around whether SSNP members are able to evade serving in the Syrian army, often times feared on front lines in distant provinces, to act instead as local protection forces in cities of their birthplace.  The SSNP’s Eagles Whirlwind are nevertheless engaged in very active battle zones throughout multiple regions in Syria.  Some of the more prominent or well – known areas and towns include the province of Hama- Salamiyah, Mahardah, Suqaylabiyah and Sahl al Ghab plains to name a few; Homs city, Sadad, al-Qaryatayn in Homs; the countryside of Latakia province-Jabal al-Akrad, Kubani, Kinsaba, Khammam and Salma; in addition to the cities of Aleppo, Zabadani; Douma; Suwayda; Quneitra; and the Qalamoun region.

Eagles Whirlwind in 2017:

According to official Eagles Whirlwind social media pages, three members have fallen so far this year in battle.  One fighter each from Salamiyah (Hama)—24 to 25 years old; Aleppo—39 to 40 years old and Douma—26 to 27 years of age.  The fighter from Aleppo seemed to be more of a symbolic presence alongside Syrian army troops and various militias while the other two died as part of operations with the army (one member who died in Salamiyah actually is said to have been within the army’s formations-adding to previously mentioned blurred lines).  Additionally, all three formally became SSNP party members within the last three years or so.

Interestingly, there is a split off branch from the SSNP’s Eagles of the Whirlwind also fighting with the Syrian army.  This group is called the Syrian Social Nationalist Party in the Syrian Arab Republic.  Apparently, Rami Makhlouf is their main supporter and members are more susceptible to Arabism.  One of these fighters was present when pro-regime forces advanced inside a de-confliction zone near the city of Tanf on the Iraq-Syria border.  The town hosts a base where U.S. and British special operations soldiers are training a rebel faction for future incursions into Syria’s eastern desert-near the town of Deir Ezzor.  Based on a SSNP social media site, this fighter ended up succumbing to his wounds on May 21st after coalition jets struck the convoy on May 18th.  He was a party member since 2008, and along with his brother who died in 2012, happened to be a founder of the NDF’s Idlib branch.  Pictured below is a “martyrdom” poster for this fighter killed near Tanf from SSNP’s group that broke away.  One can clearly differentiate between this and Eagles of the Whirlwind posters honoring their comrades.

SSNP in the Syrian Arab Republic member killed near Tanf

The majority of the eighteen fighters or so from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party in the Syrian Arab Republic who have been killed since 2016 occurred primarily in Palmyra and Aleppo.  It does appear more fighters in this group fought around the towns they were born and rarely ever experienced combat in cities Eagles of the Whirlwind fighters were present.  Additional analysis regarding this development will be key in gathering potential negative effects from a split and any coinciding repercussions the SSNP’s influence may suffer as the Syrian war drags on.  Has the Assad regime strategized to split up armed groups gaining influence? Possibly a smart maneuver in order to gain more control over these militias which could one day threaten the regimes power.  In specific areas where rebels and jihadists were defeated, vast amounts of unmonitored armed militias roam the streets, surely Assad is plotting for what comes next to secure his grip.

Lastly, patterns are difficult to detect in only a year and a half.  As such, analysis within that timeframe may cause speculation.  This is understandable.  Moreover, lack of information on certain fighters coupled with an overall low death count makes sweeping declarations mere hypotheses.  Nevertheless, the intention of this article is to act as a starting point for future studies while also laying a basic foundation to garner a better understanding of SSNP activities throughout the Syrian war.  SSNP fighters are very active on multiple fronts across Syria, witnessing some of the more strategic battles, and low casualty figures since 2016 should not mislead such a fact.  The year 2015 saw far more activity for the Eagles Whirlwind.  More on that in the next paper.

[1] Appears he is the only SSNP fighter to have died since 2016 who was not born in Syria.  He was born in Choueifat, Lebanon.

— End —

The Source of SSNP Emblem or the Whirlwind
by Jesse McDonald

Following our previous discussion that sheds light on the Eagles of the Whirlwind in Syria since 2016, we turn to the emblem their SSNP party members display so proudly. Emblazoned with an eagle carrying the SSNP’s logo, the “whirlwind.” What is the inspiration for this symbol? A combination of a cross and crescent- signifying the unity and diverse makeup of the SSNP? Perhaps the Nazi swastika? Or perhaps something entirely different? The SSNP has vehemently denied any link between their emblem and the swastika used by the Nazis.

This photo shows the swastika on a Sumerian bowl from approximately 6000 B.C.
Now, I wish to expand on the early origins of al-zawba’a.

Symbols were often used throughout the ages in ancient cultures as a powerful form of expression. Spanning from South America to Europe and continuing to the Middle East, while also impressing India and China, such images were extremely meaningful and popular within these civilizations. They explained known facts while also depicting energy of the unknown (cosmic universe). It is from these early times the swastika symbol was revealed to the world.

Swastikas were a common geometrical pattern used in ancient art and did not have the same negative connotations it has today. The name swastika typically means “good fortune” or “well-being” in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit. Illustrations of this symbol can be found all over the world dating back ten thousand years. Common to antiquity periods, symbols displayed in such a manner usually depicted energies of the universe fashioned around a center point. Notice the appearance of a whirlwind symbol in rotation along with an image of a swastika in the center below.

Photo shows the swastika on a Sumerian bowl from approximately 6000 B.C.
Moving away from the swastika for a moment. In this instance (SSNP), the universe is symbolized by a circle which is always moving. In the center is the mandala- a whirlwind that has a unique and close relationship with the circle. The center radiates towards the circle and the circle gives depth to the center. Why is this relevant? The SSNP believes this universe was centered in Syria when the land sprouted numerous advanced and powerful civilizations thousands of years ago.

Most of the Syrian legends revolve around various cosmic and human themes, most notably the emergence of the universe, creation, death followed by emancipation, conflict, construction, order, et cetera. Inheritance is the primary line, it is the indistinguishable energy and the symbol is the appearance of this energy. It is this focus on the centers energy, specifically marked by the universe and how everything radiates around it, the whirlwind image resonates with the SSNP. Fascination therefore does not appear to derive (although not ruling out any fascist inspiration considering the time period) from the Nazi swastika or a combination of a crescent and cross; both debated and contemplated in Western media publications.

The whirlwind inscriptions found throughout the Levant are also thought to be Phoenician. Antoun Saadeh chose the whirlwind as a symbol of the immortality of the Syrian nation, a symbol symbolized in more than a historical epic of the annals of Syrian history.

Saadeh expanded on the symbol when he said, “The symbol of the Whirlwind was found engraved on more than one fossil in Syria. It symbolizes the interaction of matter and spirit. It symbolizes life, survival, immortality and within the four corners of ‘freedom, duty, order and power.’”

It appears, contrary to popular debate, the SSNP logo derives from a symbol dating back thousands of years found throughout the Levant and Mesopotamia. All things considered, especially when examining their ideological outlook and affinity for ancient ‘Syrian’ civilizations who once dominated the region, this is actually not extraordinarily surprising.

Comments (3)


Eugene said:

Interesting story, especially about the symbols. I’m sure some will take issue and add their own versions, but denying history, only shows a narrow view slanted to the viewers present state of mind. Considering the use of the symbols from the far reaches of the earth over thousands of years, the educational value far exceeds the present trend of said symbols meaning.

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June 4th, 2017, 2:40 pm

 

ALAN said:

You can Boldly close a meaningless blog.
In fact, blog turns into a corpse.

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June 7th, 2017, 6:37 pm

 

Bernard said:

This symbole is everywhere, in mongolia, it’s the force of empire, it’s hitler who have copied …

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June 8th, 2017, 9:43 am