The movements of Iranian militias in southern Syria indicate that Tehran has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the regime’s return to this sensitive area, after opposition groups departed and others who accepted July’s “settlement” remained.
No sooner had the regime and its allies returned to this area than Iran began to bolster its military presence in Daraa. Local sources in southern Syria, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told Alsouria Net that an Iranian base was under construction in the Lajat area.
The task of building this base has been undertaken primarily by the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, who recently oversaw the training and graduation of a number of military and combat courses in villages of the Lajat area, which many residents have fled from.
Alsouria Net learned that the militias have transformed the area of the Lajat villages into a military barracks for training, with one source saying that, “On Oct. 15, 2018, Hezbollah carried out a training course, graduating about 75 fighters who were part of the Ninth Armored Division in the regime army, and oversaw their training in the town of Ayb in the Lajat area.”
According to sources, the Iraqi militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq along with Hezbollah and other militias destroyed about 650 houses and cleared out a number of villages in Lajat, levelling them to the ground, to create an area of 30 square kilometers.
In these villages, the Iran-backed militias prepared training barracks and warehouses for weapons and ammunition, in order to make this area into a military base for foreign Iran-backed militias to be based.
The first batches of weapons and ammunition reached the militias in the area by this route at the beginning of October, sources told Alsouria Net.
These militias entered through the al-Qaim crossing on the Syrian-Iraqi border to the city of Albu Kamal, which is one of the main crossings where Iran-backed militias are present in Syria. These militias continue on to the town of al-Sukhna, heading to the city of Palmyra, where there are military bases for them. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard sorts them into operational groups and deploys them across Syria as needed.
The militias in the Lajat area continued their way to the city of al-Qaryatayn in the Homs area and then headed to the Qalamoun area and the city of Yabroud and the village of Nasseriya. From there the militias headed toward the towns of Harran al-Awamid and al-Atiba in eastern Ghouta, and then to the border between Daraa and Suweida north of the Lajat area in the Bawidan area. After that they met with Brigade 34 near the town of al-Masmiya, and then continued on to the villages and towns of the Lajat area where they are deployed.
Sources told Alsouria Net that the Revolutionary Guard itself oversaw the transportation of weapons and ammunition to the Lajat area, specifically to the warehouses near the Damascus-Amman international highway.
The same sources said that Revolutionary Guard officers had carried out a number of meetings throughout October in Tellet al-Meqdad near the town of Mahajjah with a number of militia commanders in the Lajat area to discuss supplying these militias with ammunition and weapons and overseeing the building of a military base in the area.
Iranian Pressure on Daraa and Suweida
With the presence of this base, the Assad regime is trying to pressure the residents of Suweida to dissolve the “Men of Dignity” (Rijal al-Karama) movement in the province. The regime is threatening the residents with military force if the residents in Suweida continue to refuse to send their children to join the regime’s ranks.
The presence of this base is also one of the biggest pressure factors on the residents of Daraa, whereby these militias are trying to put residents of the area into their ranks to give their presence more legitimacy. In this, the militias are relying on help from former commanders of rebel groups who have carried out reconciliations and settlements with regime forces.
In August, the Russian-backed Nimr Forces carried out raids and arrests in the Lajat area east of Daraa after accusations by these militias that there were Islamic State members in the area’s villages and towns, taking advantage of the state of tension between the Druze residents of the Suweida villages and the Bedouin residents of the neighboring Daraa villages in the Lajat area after the terror group carried out an attack on Suweida, which killed dozens of people and resulted in the kidnapping of a number of women and children.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.