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Iran’s Underground Efforts in Syria’s South Hope to Reestablish Foothold

Iran’s Underground Efforts in Syria’s South Hope to Reestablish Foothold

Wednesday, 7 November, 2018 - 13:45
Residents inspect damage barrel bombs dropped by forces loyal to the Syrian regime in Tafas town in Daraa, Syria, July 2, 2015. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir
Daraa (Southern Syria)-Asharq Al-Awsat
A delegation of senior Tehran representatives, close to the Iranian Supreme Leader, visited Syria’s southwestern province, Daraa. Their trip was carried out under the banner of reconstruction and empowerment of locals.

Including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s personal representative, Abu Fazzel Tabtabai, the team congratulated Daraa for being freed from the grip of terror groups, Syria pro-regime media outlets reported.

Daraa officials accompanied the delegation’s tour of the governorate. The Iranian delegation accredited Iranian and Hezbollah forces for helping eradicate “terrorism,” in the southern province, private sources said.

Promising to put the best interest of Daraa locals first, Iran pledged to launch reconstruction projects in the southern region in the coming months.

Iran is slowly finding its way back into Syrian southern territories after it had confirmed its withdrawal in favor of a reconciliation pact struck between opposition factions and the Syrian regime, South Syria resident Samer Al Musalma told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The deal stipulates removing Iran forces and affiliate proxies from Syria’s southern border area.

“Iran is trying to grow its activities in Syria’s South, whether civilian or military, even though it is trying hard to play the ‘reformed man’s’ role away from arms and closer to culture and civil services,” Musalma said.

He added that Tabtabai’s visit and his promises to locals speak volumes of Iran’s desire to reestablish a foothold in the region.

On one hand, Iran promises infrastructure projects, and on the other it is trying to empower its militant proxy, Hezbollah, in southern Syria, where unemployment rates and poor living conditions leave youth helplessly vulnerable to materialistic temptations.

Musalma added that Hezbollah’s recruitment process is carried out by local mediators in rural villages and towns near the southwestern border city Sweida, and Daraa’s countryside. Hezbollah conscription is being sold to youth under the assumption that the party holds unmatched clout in Syria.

Those joining Hezbollah, a well-established ally of regime leader Bashar Assad, are promised impunity from regime harassment. Many draft dodgers and deserters of army reserve calls are likely to opt for the offer being presented by the Iran-linked proxy.

Tehran is trying to exert its influence in southern Syria through local mediators carrying out its agenda and circumvent international understandings that called for its exit from southern Syria regions, activist Muhannad al-Abdullah from Daraa told Asharq Al-Awsat.

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