75 days after the latest Israeli attack | Pro-Iranian militias strengthen their presence in western Euphrates region, boosting their trade, intensifying movements with ongoing recruitment operations
75 days have passed since the recent Israeli attack on pro-Iranian militias, west of the Euphrates, which left great human losses ever in Israeli airstrikes. And over a month has passed after the U.S. airstrikes that left 22 people dead, pro-Iranian militias, however, continue their intensive movements and activities in the western Euphrates region after turning it into a colony in which they move freely as if it isn’t Syrian territory.
These militias continue to bring in weapons and ammunition from Iraq through trucks loaded with vegetables and fruits from Iraqi territory via illegal crossings. In addition to the continued commercial movement to and from Iraq. The pro-Iranian militias store their weapons in residential areas and archaeological and historical places, as they store weapons and ammunition in the Citadel of Al-Rahba near Al-Mayadeen city.
Furthermore, pro-Iranian militias continue recruiting young men and men in the western Euphrates region, exploiting the extreme poverty in the entire areas held by the Syrian regime, in light of poor living conditions and the catastrophic collapse of the economy, as they offer financial intensives to recruits, in addition to wooing the region’s clans.
According to Syrian Observatory sources, the number of people who have been recruited for pro-Iranian militias in the western Euphrates region has risen to 9,850.
It is worth noting that the number of Iranians and allied militias of Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities in the region has reached more than 25 thousand, while Russia is trying to shift the balance of power, west of the Euphrates, in terms of recruiting tribes and people. The scale, however, is still weighted in favour of the Iranians.
In February, SOHR said that in light of repeated attacks on Iranians and allied militias in western Euphrates region, which met with ongoing Iranian expansion in the region that became more like an “Iranian protectorate.” In the following report, SOHR highlights the Iranian presence with its militias in a territory larger than Lebanon. From Al-Bukamal at the Syrian-Iraqi border to Al-Tabni, passing through Al-Mayadeen and the city of Deir ez-Zor, in addition to deploying in overlapping areas at the administrative border with Homs province, which raise important questions about the reasons for this presence and turning that area into a “colony.”
According to SOHR sources from Deir ez-Zor, the deployment of Iran and its militias is mainly concentrated at illegal military crossings in Al-Bukamal countryside, Al-Jamiyaat neighbourhood, Al-Katif neighbourhood in the city of Al-Bukamal, the base of Imam Ali, the villages of al-Abbas and Al-Jala and other sites in Al-Bukamal desert. And the neighbourhoods of the city of Al-Mayadeen and the farms area, which is the largest gathering of these militias in the area, located in the countryside of Al-Mayadeen and the village of Tiba, in addition to al-Ashara, Al-Quriya, Mahkan, Al-Bolil, Al-Jaffra and Ayash warehouses on the outskirts of Deir ez-Zor city.
In addition, the neighbourhoods of Harabish, Al-Rusafa, al-Umal and the 137th Brigade in the city of Deir ez-Zor, as well as other locations scattered in these areas, and the eastern Euphrates in the villages of Hatla and Marat.
The Syrian Observatory would like to point out to the large Iranian presence in civilian and populated areas, west of the Euphrates, where military positions and weapons and ammunition depots are located.
The names of militias in these areas are numerous with dozens of military formations of Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities, who were recruited by Iran in Syria through the offering of financial incentives and continuous usage of religion and sectarianism, or those who have been brought from other countries as “mercenaries” to serve Iran’s interests in Syria.
Here is a list of the most prominent militia formations:
· The Iraqi Hezbollah
· The Pakistani Zainabiyoun Brigade
· Abu fadl al-Abbas
· The Iranian Revolutionary Guard
· Sayyid al-Shuhada Brigades
· The 47th Brigade
· Haras Al-Qurra and the Afghan Brigade of Fatimiyoun, which apparently became Iran’s second powerful force in Syria after The Lebanese Hezbollah.
According to Syrian Observatory sources, the number of Iranian forces and allied militias in the western Euphrates region is between 24 to 25,000 fighters, 9,000 of whom are Syrian recruited by Iran through “Shi’aism” proselytising operations and financial incentives, while the rest, 15 to 16 thousand fighters, of Arab and Asian nationalities.
Tens of members of the Iranian-backed militia “Al-Haj Qassem Soleimani Regiment”, which was formed a few months ago in Nebl and Al-Zahraa areas in the northern countryside of Aleppo and comprising local Shiite fighters, were seen arriving in Al-Bokamal city in early February 2021.
Therefore, many questions must be raised, perhaps the most prominent of which revolves around the Iranian goals of its large presence in a vast geographical area, which has become the ruler of these areas, is it to secure and protect the Tehran-Beirut road to follow the path of Qassem Soleimani, or are there other strategic objectives for Iran, and it’s unlikely to fight ISIS in the desert, as Iran’s participation in military operations against the group is very timid and negligible. Is the region now an “Iranian protectorate” that the regime and its Russian ally are forbidden to approach without the permission of the Iranians?
On the other hand, pro-Iranian militias have recently stepped up their movements and substantially brought in weapons and ammunition without clear reasons so far, especially since the weapons include short- and medium-range missiles and heavy weapons.
From January 29 to date, the Syrian Observatory has monitored the entry of four shipments of weapons, all by vegetables and fruit trucks of, entering from illegal crossings from Iraq.
Here is a list of dates and types of weapons brought in by these militias:
· The first shipment was on January 29, where the Iraqi Hezbollah brought in a shipment of weapons containing 56 medium- and short-range missiles to Al-Tibni area and on the outskirts of al-Mayadeen.
- The second was on February 11, but the shipment was targeted by a drone airstrike the moment it entered Syria, which led to its destruction and the killing of four militiamen.
- The third shipment was on February 20, as three “vegetables and fruit” trucks were used as camouflage, were loaded with Iranian weapons and ammunition, which entered from an illegal crossing between Iraq and Syria near the village of Al-Abbas, which belongs to al-Jala area in the countryside of Albu Kamal city, east of Deir ez-Zor. Iran uses these illegal crossings to transport weapons and ammunition, and the shipment was unloaded in that area.
The last shipment was on February 22, and was brought in by the Iranian-backed Afghani militia of “Liwa Fatemiyoun” to its positions in west Euphrates region. The shipment, which included shells, missiles and ammunition, entered Syria aboard vegetable trucks from Iraq, via an unofficial crossing. The trucks headed to Al-Mazare’ area on the outskirts of Al-Mayadeen in eastern Deir Ezzor, which hosts the largest gatherings of Iranian forces and their proxy militias.