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Conflict of interest mounts between Russia, Iran in southern Syria

Analysis | 2018-10-08 15:27:00
Conflict of interest mounts between Russia, Iran in southern Syria
(Zaman Al Wasl)- Once the Syrian regime and key ally Russia took the Syria south from rebels, a power struggle has begun to appear between these forces. each side is now trying to win over the support of civilians by rallying the youth and spreading ideas that back up its military, economic and even intellectual projects.

This conflict emerged in the form of a race in taking the allegiance of civilians and previous members of the military who surrendered their weapons under the reconciliation agreement concluded last July. This agreement provided for the handing over of land and weapons by the districts of the opposition, in exchange for the cessation of hostilities and prosecutions.

Russia pledged to protect the residents of the villages extending from the eastern border of Basra to Sidon in the west, not allowing any forces, be them that of the regime or Iranian forces, to intervene in their affairs and meddle in their business. Russia entrusted the forces of “Shabab al-Sunnah” and its leader Ahmad al-Awda, after joining the so called “Fifth Corps”, with handling the affairs of these areas. A Russian delegation that visited Nawa last August requested from the people of the city to recruit the youth and train them so as to ensure their interests in the western region. 

The Iranian militias also started the execution of their plans from the very same western region. In fact, their delegations already have visited the major cities starting from Al Hara to villages under the name “Triangle of Death”. They also sent for the rulers of Nawa, and specifically Jassim, in order to tell them about their intention to visit the cities. While the Lebanese militia Hezbollah chose the eastern part of the province, including towns directly under Russia’s and Ahmed al-Awda’s control, such as the town of Sidon located on the international highway (Damascus-Amman). 

During the Iranian militias’ visit to the western region, it is important to note some key details. They granted many offers to win the support of the citizens. They offered first money (a five hundred dollars monthly salary for the youth in exchange for their allegiance) they also dug wells, restored old schools and ruined homes requesting in exchange, from the rulers of the area, to facilitate the affiliation of the youth in their doctrine and to allow the establishment of scientific Shi’a seminars directed to children. 

As for the Lebanese militia of Hezbollah, their offer did not exceed, according to our local source, the two hundred dollars to each young man who intends to join its ranks. It promises not to involve them in active battles and to limit their services to military checkpoints. 

Our sources assert that the militia assigned a number of people in the town of Sidon to open an office in which young men are recruited and indoctrinated to become Shiites. Our source also points out that this behavior angered the Russian forces and that they reacted by deploying military barriers at the entrances of cities and towns and they reassured the people telling them that the only aim behind these barriers is to prevent the movements of Hezbollah militia. 

Assad forces, however, split between those who are for joining the republican guard and those for joining the fourth division. In one of the regime’s military delegation’s visits to the cities of "Jassim" and "Angel" in the western countryside of the province, Major general of the state security "Hossam Luka," tries to bring the rulers to encourage the enrollment of young men in the ranks of the "Republican Guard," and warns against the temporary aspect of the Russian presence claiming that the regime is the sole and permanent real protector. 

Russia, between its promises and the interests of the Allies: 

Although Russia has pledged to the United States of America, Israel and Jordan to keep Iranian militias at bay from the Syrian south, it has nonetheless turned a blind eye to Iran’s expansion.  This situation can be explained in many ways; first, it could be explained as a complete and deliberate breach of promise, and second, that Russia is unwilling to stop the activities of Iran which sees itself as a key factor in maintaining the Assad regime and an important hand in the war waged to stop the revolution of the Syrian people.  

Journalist Waleed Al-Sulaiman sees Moscow's promises as a guarantee that Iranian militias will not enter the southern region as just a series of lies generated by Russian generals in order to ensure Assad’s control over that region. Russia was and still is an enemy of the Syrian people and a friend of Assad’s dictatorship, as well as a supporter of the mullah regime in Tehran. 

He also considered that the Russian plane crash, in which 15 passengers got killed, would increase the diplomatic relationship between Moscow and Tehran; as Putin won’t hesitate to use the Iranian and Lebanese militias to put pressure on Israel to stop its raids on the regime’s locations. 

"Sulaiman" in an interview with "Zaman al-Wasl” asserted that "there will be no clash between the allies of Russia, but what Russia is, in fact, doing today is control the movements of these militias according to well-thought plans," he also expressed his belief that: “Russia will have, in the coming period, to include in its fifth corps, all the Iranian militias, the Shiites and the traitors of the revolution, in southern Syria.”

He also stressed that: “Iran’s forces lost many lives in the course of its endeavor to keep Assad’s regime in control. Iran also helped Russia, as well, to spread its control over several areas in the country. Tehran, in its turn, will not abandon its goals and especially its sectarian projects in Syria. Russia won’t however try to put a stop to these projects since they don’t clash with the colonial aspirations of Putin’s regime, which are all about taking over the wealth of Syria. 

The journalist adds: “the southern region is headed to a big Shia campaign, especially since most of those who favor the Assad regime are enslaved by power and money, and therefore Iran will devote a large amount of money for this group in the south. This category of mercenaries will provide a local force that will save Russia the trouble of bringing militia members from outside. These mercenaries will be led by officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia covering for the Assad army which is the one pulling the strings. "

Journalist "Mohammed al-Awaid" considered that "Tsarist Russia, whose only worry is to seek more influence in the world, won’t spare for Iran and its militias any share of the Syrian cake.” He also foresees that: “Russia will resort to the American and Western discourses in order to eliminate Iran and drive it out of Syria. The Israeli bombing directed to the sites of these militias will also be the winning card of Russia that will facilitate its eventual acquisition of everything.”

“Al-Awaid” told Zaman al-Wasl that Russia considers everything that is going on as one of her achievements and that she benefited from the help of no one. Therefore, it’s not wise to rule out the possibility of Russia becoming, in the future, a member of the very international community that is now striving to drive her out of southern Syria and out of the whole Syrian territory in general. 

According to Al-Awaid, the economically exhausted Russia will not be able to stay away from the international community. The condition of its entry relies on the termination of its alliance with Iran. These claims are based on the statements of US Secretary of State "Mike Pompeo" in July, in which he confirmed that Trump considers the return of Moscow to the international community and to the Group of the Seven industrialized countries as “inevitable," and that in order for that to happen, Russia needs to make some concessions, including, primarily, removing Iran from Syria.

He added that: «Ever since the Russian military intervention in Syria has started, in September 2015, Iran began to feel excluded; adding to that the continued international pressure on it, both economically and militarily. Iran is, therefore, today, facing the problem of being targeted for its continued interference in the affairs of the Arab region.

Journalist Al-Awaid concluded by saying: “Iran will eventually leave Syria and so will Russia, because the age of colonization is never that long and because the land belongs to its peoples, the land as one piece, without the colonial or religious doctrinal schemes that try to divide it. “

By Mohamed al-Hammadi

Zaman Al Wasl
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