Iranian military in Syria in August 2021 | More weapons shipments arrive in west Euphrates…Iranian-backed militias entrench their presence in al-Hasakah…Israel continues attacks on Iranian’s positions
Iranian forces and their proxy militias still continue strengthening their presence throughout regime-held areas, disregarding the “cold war” with Russians and the repeated airstrikes by Israel and International Coalition, which are unable to put an end to such efforts or even hinder them.
In the following report, SOHR highlights the key developments in areas dominated by the Iranians in August 2021.
Attraction of children and successive arrival of weapons shipments in western Euphrates top the events
In early August, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps sat aircraft-detecting radar system in al-Mazare’ area which hosts the largest gathering for Iranians in the outskirts of al-Mayadeen city in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. According to SOHR sources, Iranian military experts supervised the process of fixing and operating the radar.
It is worth noting that al-Mazare’ area has strategic importance because it is located on a high area exposing al-Mayadeen city and areas controlled by Syria Democratic Forces and the International Coalition in east Euphrates region.
On August 7, SOHR sources reported seeing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on high alert on the outskirts of al-Mayadeen city in eastern Deir Ezzor, along with the arrival of over 20 vehicles carrying anti-aircraft heavy machineguns in the surrounding areas of Ain Ali shrine on the outskirts of the city.
The reasons behind that alertness remained unknown if it was a part of precautionary measures by the IRGC or the Iranian-backed militias obtained information of an expected attack by Israel or the International Coalition on their positions and posts in the region.
Moreover, Iranian-backed militias brought in two weapons shipments to west Euphrates region in August, as the first batch which comprised Iranian-made missiles aboard trucks used for transporting vegetables crossed into Syria from Iraq on August 11, before the trucks headed to Iranian-backed militias’ positions on the outskirts of al-Mayadeen city on the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. According to SOHR sources, the trucks headed first to al-Haal market in al-Mayadeen city as a part of camouflage, before they headed to al-Shabli archaeological site and unloaded their cargoes in warehouses in underground tunnels dug by the Iranian-backed militias.
The second batch was on August 31 when a shipment of short-range surface-to-surface missiles arrived in Syria from Iraq and headed to the Iranian-backed militias’ positions nearby al-Mayadeen city in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. According to SOHR activists, Persian words and symbols, which translated in English as “Volcano – H2”, were written on the missiles which were transported on trucks used for transporting vegetables.
On August 24, SOHR pointed out to a serious development which could be summarized in the Iranian-backed militias’ efforts to raise a new generation of fighters in areas under their control adopting and tracking their ideology and “dying for them”, as the Iranian militias’ techniques were similar to the ISIS’. ISIS had already established a military formation dubbed the “Caliphate Soldiers” which included children in its ranks.
The Iranian-backed militias are exerting diligent efforts to attract children to join their ranks through advocacy, cultural and leisure activities held in the Iranian Cultural Centre and the militias’ advocacy centres in schools, parks, markets and entertainment places. These centres distribute candy and show short movies glorifying the Iranian-backed militias, praising their efforts to liberate the people from the grip of terrorism and motivating to the glorious jihad and “the Liberation of Palestine”.
The Iranian militias rely on social media and distributing brochures containing addresses and phone numbers of the Iranian centres in order to spur children to join these centres.
It is worth noting that many children have joined these cnetres, particularly the children who had been in ISIS military formation of the “Caliphate Soldiers”. Furthermore, the local encourage their children to join the Iranian-backed militias in order to evade prosecution by regime security branches, especially since the Iranian militias provides impunities to the little recruits’ families.
As soon as the children join the Iranian-backed militias, they undergo a 25-day ideology course and another 25-day military course in closed camps in al-Mazare’ area in al-Mayadeen desert in Deir Ezzor countryside. The children later are sorted out and distributed to the militias’ posts and headquarters.
It is worth noting that al-Mazare’ area hosts the largest gathering of Iranian-backed militias in east Euphrates region, while every militias has its own training camp.
Iranian-backed militias combat each others to recruit children after the general leadership has ordered these militias to intensify recruitment of children in that region. While the most prominent Iranian-backed militias that work on recruiting children in Syria are as follows:
- Liwaa Fatemiyoun: an Afghani commander called al-Haj Ali Talibi supervises this militias’ camp.
- Al-Nujabaa Movement: an Iraqi commander called Mahdi al-Musawy supervises this militias’ camp.
- The local militia of Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas: a local commander called Rubain al-Wahibi supervises this militias’ camp.
- The local militia of al-Sayeda Zeinab: a local commander called Abu Ali al-Duwayhi supervises this militias’ camp.
-Entrenchment of presence
In August, militias affiliated to Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps seized dozens of farmlands in eastern Dier Ezzor. The militias’ administration asked the land owners in Hawy and al-Magry neighborhoods in eastern Deir Ezzor to head to the militias’ headquarters to prove their ownership of the farmland. The militias later seized the lands whose owners did not head to the militias’ headquarters, most of whom were living outside Deir Ezzor. The sources added that the factions hired the seized land to local members who had close ties with the Iranian-backed militias to invest and cultivate it.
While the Iranian Cultural Center in al-Mayadeen city employed several persons with monthly salaries, on August 3, to distribute flyers in the streets and markets propagandizing the centre’s activities and symposiums.
Also, on August 19, Iranian militias operating in Dier Ezzor countryside commemorate Ashura in al-Temu neighbourhood in al-Mayadeen city, in presence of military commanders and Shiite clergy. In Shia Islam, Ashura marks the day of the Battle of Karbala and it is a time of mourning. Amid strict security measures in the neighbourhood and surrounding streets, hundreds of people gathered in the neighbourhood where they lifted black flags and practiced “al-Latmiyyat al-Shi’yah” (self flagellation: a religious ritual practiced by Shiite community).
Ashura commemoration in the capital, Damascus
In early august, Iranian militias’ loyalists stuck posters on the walls of public places, mosques and schools in Damascus neighborhood, which called upon the residents to take part in Ashuraa marches. The posters included slogans written on them read “Zaynab will not be captured twice”. In addition, the Iranian-backed militias’ affiliated left graffiti read “Oh Hussein”, “Oh Hussein Aba Abdaull-Allah, the oppressed”, “Here we come Great Zaynab”, “Oh Roqqiyah”, and “Oh, Aba al-Fadel al-Abbas.”
Furthermore, individuals affiliated with Iranian-backed militias distributed Shiaa-featured paper leaflets to the pedestrians and residents near coffee shops in the neighborhoods of al-Mazah, al-Mazra’ah, Rukn al-Deen, al-Mohajereen, and Mashrou’ Dummar.
It is worth noting that other Shiaa-featured paper posters are prevalent in Damascus streets, that proves the influence of the Iranian-backed militia in old Damascus neighbourhoods.
Despite losing al-Qamishli: Attempts to strengthen presence in al-Hasakah in progress
In August 10, the official heading Iran’s bureau in al-Qamishli airbase, known as Haj Ali, in al-Hasakah countryside rose the monthly salaries of the fighters of the National Defence Forces (NDF) from 50,000 SYL to 150,000 SYL.
SOHR sources confirmed that Haj Ali inhabited over 60 NDF fighters, who had been expelled from Tayy neighbourhood, in al-Villat area which is neighbouring al-Qamishli airbase.
This development came after regime forces gave up NDF, at Russia’s request, which led to the expulsion of these fighters from al-Qamishli city.
It is worth noting that the houses and villas which NDF fighters were transported to had been seized earlier by the Iranian, after their inhabitants left them years ago to search for safer areas, after the airbase and surrounding areas had been turned into a military zone.
It is also worth noting that nearly ten officials of the Iranians and Hezbollah are located in two posts in al-Qamishli city, they are a post in al-Qamishli airbase and another post near the railway to the south of the airbase.
These officials are tasked to supervise and administrate the following military formations:
- The Military Security service
- The National Defence Forces (NDF)
- Ansar Amn al-Dawlah (State Security Supporters)
- Ansar al-Amn al-Askari (Military Security Supporters).
Ongoing Israeli attacks
In August 2021, Israel attacked positions of Iranian-backed militias in Syria on two occasions, as three missiles were fired by Israeli forces on August 17, which targeted Qurs al-Nafl hill in Hudr town in the northern countryside of al-Quneitra. The attack resulted in broke out of fire in military position affiliated to regime forces and Iranian-backed militias.
The second attack was carried out two days later, on August 19, when Israeli airstrikes targeted positions of the Lebanese Hezbollah in Qarrah area in Rif Dimashq, near the Syria-Lebanon border, leaving four militiamen of the Lebanese Hezbollah dead, they were two Syrian militiamen, one Iraqi and one Iranian. The airstrikes also caused material damage.