How Iran establishes influence in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor (1)

RAQQA, Syria (North Press) – As soon as Iran entered the eastern region of Syria in 2017 under the pretense of backing the Syrian government in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), it started to attract Arab tribes in Deir ez-Zor and use several other methods to infiltrate the region.

Iran used the importance of the tribal lineage in this community as a start to infiltrate, such as the Hashemite tribes that have a historical connection to the Ahl al-Bayt, or the descendants of Prophet Muhammad, such as the al-Baggara, Mashahda, and al-Marasima tribes and all of them backed Iranian-affiliated militias.

North Press, through a network of field and military sources in areas held by Iranian-backed militias, obtained information about certain figures and over 10 tribal military militias formed by Iran. 

Tribal militias

Baqir Brigade, backed by Iran, is led by Nawaf Ragheb al-Bashir and his children, who formed the Tribe Lions militia, with the majority of its militants coming from al-Baggara. The most prominent leaders are Abdullah Younes al-Sattam, Khalaf Younes al-Sattam, Fawaz al-Rashid, and Nasser Awad al-Sadoun, aka Abu Sayaf.

According to sources, these military leaders are from the al-Baggara tribe and are close to Nawaf Ragheb al-Bashir.

The majority of the militants in the Baqir Brigade are from the al-Shuwait tribe and are numbered between 1,500-2,000 militants. This militia is not known for participating in battles even though its presence is confirmed in the towns of Sabikhan and al-Boleel, according to sources. The sources suggested that their work is limited to protecting headquarters and smuggling across the Euphrates River.

Iran also formed Haras al-Qura (village guards) militia in the town of al-Boleel and Sabikhan in the east of the city of Deir ez-Zor, west of the Euphrates River. They are directly under the command of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and are led by Iranian militants, but the local leaders are unknown.

The Liwa Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas is deployed in the city of al-Mayadin and surrounding areas, led by Adnan al-Soud, aka Abu al-Abbas. The militia has about 4,000 Syrian militants, mostly from local tribes.

The al-Sayida Zaynab militia, led by Mo’ayed al-Duwayhi, is deployed in the city of al-Mayadin, east of Deir ez-Zor. The militia consists of militants from multiple nationalities, in addition to about 1,000 local militants from the tribes of al-Qalyin (Al-Rahabi) and al-Busaraya.

The al-Sheikh forces militia in al-Mayadin, led by Akram al-Sheikh, are numbered about 200 militants, a mixture of members from the tribes of al-Jihesh and al-Qalyin (Al-Rahabi).

The Base 47 militia affiliated with IRGC is deployed in Abu Kamal and its countryside, led by Abu Issa al-Mashhadani and Youssef al-Hamdan from the town al-Sukariya. They are numbered about 1,000 militants.

The Liwa Hashemiyoun militia are under the command of the Base 47 militia, and follow orders of Abu Issa al-Mashhadani and are led by Haj Ragheb al-Mashhadani.

The Liwa al-Hussein militia is deployed in the town of al-Ayyash, east of Deir ez-Zor, and is led by Fayez al-Jad’an. All the militia’s militants are from the tribe of al-Uqaydat.

The Usoud al-Uqaydat (al-Uqaydat Lions) militia is led by Muhammad al-Shuwaiti and consists of about 300 militants. The headquarters of the militia is located on al-Arba’in street in the city of al-Mayadin. There are other headquarters in the southern desert of al-Mayadin. Most of its militants are from the tribe of al-Shuwait.

The Liwa al-Muntaser militia was recently formed in the city of Abu Kamal, backed by the so-called Farhan al-Marsoumi, who is closely linked to the IRGC. This militia’s mission is to accompany smuggling trucks. There are 300 militants in the militia, mostly from the tribes of al-Marasima, al-Bobadran, and Mashahda.

The Iyal al-Shaib militia is present in the towns of al-Suwayeiya and al-Heri, east of Deir ez-Zor, and is affiliated with the IRGC. The militants’ number and leader is unknown, but they are mostly from the tribe of al-Uqaydat backed by Sheikh of al-Hassoun tribe, Ayman Daham al-Dandel.

Influential figures

Iran first began attracting tribes and forming tribal armed militias through the houses of Al al-Reja and Yassin al-Ma’youf in the town of Hatlah, northeast of Deir ez-Zor. According to sources, the two houses receive support from Iran.

Iran attracted several businessmen in Deir ez-Zor, and several figures made a fortune as a result of working in smuggling of architecture and drugs.

Local sources said that Nawaf Ragheb al-Bashir, Sheikh of the al-Baggara tribe who formed the Baqir Brigade in cooperation with members of his tribe present in areas under Iran’s control, is one of the influential figures in the regions.

The sources added that Farhan al-Marsoumi and his brothers Khallouf, Youssef, and Hassan, who contributed to the purchase of real estate in the areas of Abu Kamal and its countryside, as well as in the countryside of Damascus, were also well-known influential figures among Iranian militias.

They mentioned other figures such as Mehanna al-Fayad, sheikh of the Busaraya tribe, Ahmad al-Shammari, sheikh of the al-Boleel tribe, Ala al-Labad, sheikh of al-Busaba tribe, and Ayman Reja al-Dandal, sheikh of al-Hassoun tribe.

Reporting by Zana al-Ali