Latest developments in southern Syria (Suwayda)

Headquarters of Raji Falhout in Suwayda northern countryside after the clashes – North Press

Ahmad Rahhal

It goes beyond doubt that the “Assad regime” well knows that its presence in southern Syria is based on two main pillars; the popular acceptance in both Daraa and Suwayda. It lost Daraa at the onset of the “Syrian revolution” and regained it through the so-called settlement agreements. The regime tried to retain that second pillar – Suwayda Governorate – which is home for the Druze sect that tried hard to avert being involved in the regime struggle against Syrian people and to remain neutral keeping its youths away from being recruited in the army. However, the “regime” exploited it claiming that it was the protector of the minorities though the actual reality shows that it shields to minorities more notably the Alawite. 

Developments in southern Syria (Suwayda)

The focal point in the Suwayda uprising is not merely a case of gangs nor the one that pertains to Raji Falhout nor that relates to drug producing and dealing. The dangers posed to Suwayda are more overall and grave as it was stated by Laith al-Balous: “The dangers are implied in the Iranian-led Shiite penetration and expansion into the city of Suwayda and the whole Jabal al-Druze.”    

Laith al-Balous is the son of Wahid al-Balou who was killed by the “Assad Regime” and Iran. At the time, Laith accused namely the (slain) General Qasem Soleimani of liquidating his father in 2015. Days ago, the same narrative was attributed to Laith when he was in his farm and diwan (the Dignity Diwan) located in the village of al-Mazraa’ where he returned a number of people who were detained by Raji Falhout to their families.  

He openly repeated saying: “Raji Falhout is not our main target; rather our aim is to eradicate the Iranian Shiite expansion from the Suwayda Governorate).

Some parties secretly affiliated with the regime circulate that al-Balous is no more than an agent of the Military Security Branch merely to reduce his influence among the Druze because they do not want an influential Druze leadership there.  

Suwayda, which the regime has failed to kneel it down or submit, abstained since the onset of the “Syrian revolution” to drag its sons into the Syrian infighting /massacre/ refrains to send its youths to be recruited by the Syrian regime too. There are more than 50.000 young people refusing to serve in the “Assad Army”. This perturbs the “regime” that adamantly seeks by every available means (security and non-security ones) to compel Sheikh al-Aql of the Druze sect to give in. However, all these attempts have fallen to the ground.   

The “Assad regime” resorted to employ its agents in the Assad-brokered terrorism via transporting the fighters of the Islamic State (ISIS) from western Qalamoun to the Yarmouk Valley with its two partners Hezbollah and the Quds Force. Then, Evil was hatched for the people of Suwayda, as power was cut from eastern villages and the army retreated from eastern Suwayda, pushing herds of ISIS militants onto the safe villages and towns. The result was 222 deaths and 200 injuries of Suwayda people. 20 women were abducted from the village of Shabki. However, in spite of the criminality of the “regime” and that of ISIS, Suwayda has remained defiant and did not bow. It proceeded resisting.  

With the return of the regime to the border with Jordan, and the resort of the Iranians to manufacturing and trading drugs as an alternative to the sanctions imposed on it by the West that destroyed their economies, Iran, Hezbollah and the security branches of Assad regime resorted to spread narcotics in Suwayda making it a transit zone towards Jordan.  

It facilitated the work of looters, those with criminal record, and pimps to spread debauchery and immorality in the governorate. Even preliminary schools in the governorate were not spared of the drugs they produced. Crimes went common after the Military Security Branch held a deal with outlaws and bandits such as Raji Falhout, Majdi Na’im, Nazih al-Jarbou’, Khaled Namour and the likes, to terrify the people of Suwayda through murder, abduction and imposing taxes. That was the turning point that led to the uprising of the descendants of Sultan al-Atrash that halted the plans of the regime and brought to the ground pillars of the regime showing both Iran and Assad how peoples could act if united.  

Information leaked by exclusive sources said that Russia prevented the “Assad Regime” to render help to Raji Falhout leaving them to face their fates facilitating only their running away.

Could Iranians tolerate such a development and this reduction of its role in southern Syria in general and in Suwayda in particular? Or still it has a position to be taken and a card to be played may be paid by sacrificing Laith al-Balous, his agents and comrades through liquidation and assassination as it was the case of his father at the hands of the regime and Iran?     

In the village of Mertek in the countryside of Suwayda there is a holy site (maqam) of the Mahdi honored by Shiites and it is the justification cited for Shiite expansion and penetration into the governorate.  

The people of Suwayda well know this fact. Militias of Hezbollah and Iran sought to reach out to Sheikhs of al-Aql. They formerly tried to build a Hussainiya in the village of Mertek but the plan failed.  

The penetration made was via Majdi Na’im and the big breakthrough was in the town of Ashrafiyat Sahnaya with a certain Druze sheikh called Aref Sha’aban who underwent courses in Qum in Iran and promoted propaganda to make connection between Druze and followers of the Shiite Twelvers. However, the rate of Shiites in Suwayda is very low.       

All in all, the Druze reject Iranian ideas and schemes. The Druze community scorns any rapprochement with Iranian agendas. Even Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif the spiritual leader of Druze in Palestine and Golan rejects that. The same view is shared by the trio of the sect in Suwayda; Sheikh Hikmat al-Hajari, Sheikh Yusuf Jarbou’ and Sheikh Mahmoud Hanawi though some variance is observed in their stances.  

However, Sheikh Hikmat al-Hajari recently broke his silence and called that heads of the security branches be isolated openly holding them accountable for what takes place in a clear response to the schemes hatched by the Military Security Branch calling to mobilize. Sheikh Hikmat al-Hajari is the brother of Ahmad al-Hajari who was assassinated by the regime in 2012.

The events of the eradicating the gang of Raji Falhout presented a clear image that the Druze community is well shielded and keeps resisting, and that it isolates all shiitized people and despise them. The majority of those adopted Shiism practice secretly.    

The people of Jabal al-Druze are determined today to eradicate all gangs affiliated with Iran and the Military Security Branch and to stand up to all bids that aim at striking the structure of the Suwayda community and to bring to a halt drugs trade due to its dangers to the youths and to abort their schemes to make a rift between the Mountain and the Valley (Mount Druse and Horan Valley) as both perturb Iran and the “Assad Regime.” 

To put more pressure on the “Assad Regime” and its allies, a declaration was issued on August, 5, 2022, by the Patriotic Powers Gathering in Suwayda in which it revealed that crimes, robbery, abduction and murder in Suwayda are all run by the knowledge of ”Assad Regime” and its security branches funded by Lebanese militias of Hezbollah and Iran, adding that any solution in Suwayda should be based on an overall one in the whole of the country in accordance with the UN Res. 2254.