Photo Credit: Alma
Map of 36 Iranian Militias operating in Syria.

At least 36 local militias operating in southern Syria, consisting of Sunnis and Druze, serve as mercenaries for the radical Shiite axis led by Iran, the Alma Research and Education Center has learned.

These militias are deployed throughout southern Syria and operate in all three southern provinces, in Quneitra which adjacent to the border with Israel, Daraa, and Sweida.

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The loyalty of most of these militias is bought with money, like mercenaries, and not acquired on the basis of an ideological common denominator. Sunni and Shiite are generally on opposing sides.

The data collected by Alma shows that the militias are engaged in a variety of missions on behalf of the Shi’ite axis headed by Iran, such as establishing presence and deterrence towards the local population, conducting activity against those who interfere with the Shi’ite axis military entrenchment in the region, assistance in the establishment of civic infrastructures, assistance in recruiting new activists, securing the movement of senior axis officials during their exposed and secret visits to the area, as well as weapons and drug smuggling, which as part of the major narcotics trafficking operation run by Hezbollah from Lebanon.

Based on Alma’s cross-referencing research, it is estimated with high probability that the militiamen occasionally perform additional tasks under a different command structure, despite their original militia affiliation. For example, an operative in the local militias listed in this report may be called on to carry out a task for the Hezbollah Golan unit or for one of the special units of the Iranian Quds Force operating in the area like unit 840. This means that militia operatives may also be involved in intelligence gathering and terrorist activities against Israel.

Sometimes the militias also act to assist the activities of Syrian regime forces affiliated and closely cooperating with the Shi’ite axis. This mainly refers to the 4th Armored Division, commanded by Maher Al-Assad, the president’s brother, and one of the Syrian intelligence apparatuses known as the “Air Force Security”. They also cooperate with the forces of the 1st Corps, which are permanently stationed in the southern Syrian sector.

Some of these militiamen previously served in the Syrian army or one of the Syrian security services. Many of them belong to the “people of the reconciliation“, locals who were mostly former opposition figures and fought as part of the Free Syrian Army and the Jaysh Khalid Ibn Al-Wallid forces, the Islamic State chapter in southern Syria, against the Syrian regime and against the forces of the Shi’ite Axis itself.

After the regime reconquered southern Syria in July 2018, the local militias reached an understanding and agreement with the Syrian regime on a mutual reconciliation, including the dismantling of the combat forces established as part of the opposition, handing over some of their weapons, with an emphasis on heavy weapons, and the signing of a non-aggression document against the Syrian regime. In return, the regime’s military forces did not enter their communities and did not carry out arrests among them.

Many of the “people of the reconciliation” and their families received medical treatment by Israel and the IDF as part of Operation Good Neighborhood to treat Syrian refugees. Alma noted that it “is not at all certain they will remember” this Israeli humanitarian gesture. In all probability, if they are demanded to take action against Israel they will do so. They will do so because they depend on the money paid to them by Iran.

The Shiite axis headed by Iran is driven by the power of ideology. On the other hand, most of the local militiamen in southern Syria are in need of money to survive and sustain their families. Their ideology is of low priority, if at all. The Shi’ite axis takes advantage of this and this is where the interests of both sides meet. In the not-too-distant past, the militias were willing to fight against the Iranian involvement, and in the present, they are willing to fight on behalf of Iranian interests and serve it for an average monthly salary of $50 to $100. In fact, these are mercenaries.

A good example demonstrating this is the fact that quite a few former members of the Jaysh Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Army, former ISIS members living in the Yarmouk Basin, have joined these militias. ISIS has a deep hatred of Shiites.

Some of the local militias operate under the “Syrian Hezbollah”, an umbrella organization established by the Shi’ite axis and supported militarily by Hezbollah Lebanon. Another part of the local militias operates under the veil of civilian associations. These associations operate in southern Syria under the auspices of the Shi’ite axis. The militias mentioned in the report are actually the military wings of those associations. The most prominent of these associations are “Jamaia Al-Zahara” and “Jamaia Al-Bostan” or in its new name “Al-Arin”, under which the militias “Al-Arin”, “Dir Al-Watan” and “Majmuat Kamil Nasr and Anwar Al-Karydi” operate.

This is a good example presenting the integration of the civilian and military establishment of the radical Shi’ite alliance headed by Iran in southern Syria, similar to the Hezbollah model in Lebanon where the military and civilian branches are indistinguishable.

Previous reports by Alma revealed that there are already dozens of sites where Shi’ite axis proxies are deployed, including Shi’ite militias, Hezbollah, and its units and local militias. This deployment exists both inside Syrian military sites, and more importantly, within many communities in Sunni areas.

“We now see the outcome of the extensive establishment strategy, accomplished by the radical Shi’ite alliance, enabling the widespread use of the human shield tactic,” Alma noted in its report.

Many civilian buildings and houses are used as weapons depots, missile launch sites, and observation posts.

Alma estimates that in the not-too-distant future, the movements and activities of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), the peacekeeping mission tasked with maintaining the ceasefire between Israel and Syria, will be restricted and they too will be prevented from entering villages and moving on certain roads, similar to Hezbollah’s restrictions on UNIFIL in southern Lebanon.

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