Hezbollah and Syrian flags are seen fluttering in Fleita, Syria August 2, 2017.
(photo credit: OMAR SANADIKI/REUTERS)
Shi’ite forces, managed by Iran, are being integrated into the campaign currently waged by the Syrian army in the south of the country, according to a report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center released on Thursday.
There are at least two Iraqi-Shi’ite forces, the Dhu al-Fiqar Brigade and the Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, being clandestinely integrated into the Syrian army to hide their identities from Israel and others that might object to their involvement, said the report.
The Dhu al-Fiqar Brigade fought with the Syrian army in its attack on the rebel enclave northeast of Deraa and also participated in cutting off the eastern rebel enclave by occupying the village of Buser al-Harir, said the report.
At the end of June 2018, the Shi’ite force posted pictures on Facebook to show off its participation, noted the intelligence center.
The brigade is composed mainly of Iraqis from Iranian- managed militias, such as the League of the Righteous, the Hezbollah Battalions and the Promised Day Brigade and was formed in June 2013.
At the beginning of June 2018, fighters belonging to the Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, another Iranian-managed Iraqi Shi’ite militia, were identified in the Quneitra and Deraa areas, according to the Meir Amit center.
They were seen wearing Syrian army uniforms, along with their commander, Maher Ajeeb Jazza, with pictures of them being taken during Syrian army preparations for occupying the southern part of the country.
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At the beginning of July 2018, pictures were published of Ajeeb with other Abu Fadl al-Abbas fighters in the region of Deraa. One picture shows him with Syrian officers. Others show him on a background of marching soldiers. The soldiers’ identities cannot be determined because they are all wearing Syrian army uniforms, said the report.
The intelligence center wrote, “The military competence of the force is relatively high. Its operatives are trained in guerrilla warfare tactics, which they acquired fighting the American army and the coalition countries in Iraq,” noting that it was founded around the end of 2012.
Besides those Iranian-managed Shi’ite militias, the report added that there are also Afghan Shi’ite fighters in the Fatemiyoun Brigade.
In addition, the report said that Hezbollah operatives also participate in the fighting, including operatives from its elite al-Radwan unit, who were sent from Lebanon.
The center said, “It can be assumed (judging by past experience) that the Shi’ite forces have Iranian officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).”
To date, the report said that the Hezbollah operatives and Shi’ite militias have fought mainly in the Deraa region, helping the Syrian army take control of villages and rebel strongholds as part of a push to reach the Jordan-Syria border.
The Syrian army is also expected to make further moves to take over the Syrian Golan Heights.
In the Meir Amit center’s assessment, the Iranians want “Hezbollah and the Shi’ite militias under their control” to “participate in a Syrian move to take over the Golan Heights, while concealing their involvement.”
According to the report, Hezbollah and the Shi’ite militias have been integrated into the various Syrian army units and do not operate as independent forces.
Pictures on social media and by the few journalists and organizations with access have shown Shi’ite militiamen wearing Syrian army uniforms, and it is difficult to distinguish them from Syrian soldiers.
This means that if these groups participate with Syrian forces in attacking the Golan Heights, it will be difficult to identify them and easy for the Syrian regime to deny the Hezbollah and Shi’ite militiamen’s involvement.
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