Thus, Iran was able to take root in Deir al-Zour

The Shiite Jaafari force militia gathering in the vicinity of the town of al-Bukamal in the countryside of Deir al-Zour

Deir al-Zour might be one of the first areas to attract Iran's attention in the last 30 years, to complete its project in the formation of its defunct empire again.

Its no secret the importance of the strategic location of Deir al-Zour, which considered to be a connecting point for the Syrian inside through its land borders with Homs with the provinces of Raqqa and al-Hasakah, in addition to its border location with Iraq at Al Bukmal city in the east, which is one of the most important factors that made Iran set it as a target, the control of Deir al-Zour provides Iran with full control of the international route (Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus), which in turn provides in the completion of what Iran calls the "Shiite Crescent", It includes the four countries (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Iran).

In addition to the economic wealth possessed by Deir al Zour, it is considered Syria's economic reservoir of the underground wealth, such as gas and oil. It has the largest oil field in Syria (the field of al-Omar), in addition to dozens of oil fields spread throughout the governorate. Deir al-Zour also hosts the country's largest gas collecting plant, the Koniku gas plant, as well as its fertile soil, which makes its land an incubator for agricultural and animal resources.

Another reason no less important than the reasons mentioned above, Iran's intention to sever Sunni tribal contact between the Syrian clans (Deir al-Zour, Hasakah, Raqqa, Aleppo) and other Sunni tribes in Iraqi border towns with al-Bukamal (Husayya, al-Qa'im, Mosul), most of which rejected to be Shia, Tehran therefore considers them a constant threat. Iran's desire to cut off ties between the Iraqi and Syrian tribes activated after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and surfaced after Iran intervened in Syria during the Syrian revolution. This detail could be concluded from undeclared statements of some of the leaders of the Iranian militias in Deir al-Zour, which were transferred by some elements who defected from the Assad regime and joined "SDF", while on the ground can be translated and observed by the practices of the militias in targeting the families of Deir al-Zour, and trying to make them Shia, they succeeded with one of the largest clans of the province, al-Bakkara clan.

All these advantages and reasons have contributed to the expansion of ambitions of Iran to control Deir al-Zour to serve its sectarian project that seeks to achieve in the Arab region and the whole Middle East, and Iran has used the religious and sectarian advocacy and disseminating "Shiism" within simple people by tempting them with money and influence to serve its project, and thus spreading more and more in that region.

* The indirect invasion of Iran

The history of Shiism in Deir al-Zour dates back to the 1980s in the period following the Iranian revolution, where Syria was at the forefront of the Persian expansion project, which was founded by Khamenei after the Iranian revolution, and joining Deir al-Zour under the Shiite Crescent formation.

Iran was able to put a foot in Syria through the "Assad" family ruling the country, and turned its attention to Deir al-Zour quickly, and worked to develop a deliberate plan to invade the community of Deir al-Zour of pure Arab tribal Sunni character, the Iranian plan presented by infiltrating society from the inside, they recruited "Omar al-Hammad," a member of Deir al-Zour volunteers in a military base in the province of Daraa, belongs to one of the known tribes of Deir al-Zour in the region, Iran ordered him to move to Deir al-Zour after becoming Shiite in the 1980s (almost 1982). He was chosen for several reasons, the most important of which was his absolute loyalty to the Assad regime, and the second being the son of a large clan residing in the village of Hatala, which has a distinctive strategic location, which is next to the center of Deir al-Zour city, It is located in the middle between the eastern and the western countryside of the province. Thus, "al-Hammad" became the cornerstone of Shiites in the province.

Al-Hammad then went to " Hattala"  and worked to invite people close to him to convert to his sect and help him in his mission. The first who accept his invitation was his cousin, Yassin al-Mayouf, who had a prominent social status in the village, Al-Mayouf soon became Shia to convince his relative, "Hussein al-Raja", of the idea, money and power which were provided by "al-Hammad" project were convincing the men that should be the core of the project in the province.

After "al-Mayouf" and "al-Raja" adopted what "Hammad" presented, the cornerstone in Deir al-Zour of Tehran project to which purpose is to dress the province with Shia, while al-Hammad became the link between Tehran and Deir al-Zour.

This stage is considered the stage of the Iranian indirect invasion of Deir al-Zour, which was limited to attempts of making the villages and towns that were suffering from poverty and ignorance to convert to Shia.

From 1982 to 2010, Iran managed to make the villages and towns in the province of Deir al-Zour to become Shia by exploiting the poverty situation of the villagers by providing a monthly salary for those who convert to the Shiite sect of 7000 Syrian pounds at that time, about 150 US $, and "Abu Khaled" confirms the case,  from the village of "Zagir Jazira,"  of 43 years old, "and says to NSO:" a  large proportion of the population of our village were quick to change their doctrine and became Shia for the purpose of money, where the head of the family receives monthly salary estimated at 7000 in the period between 2000 and 2010, amid great ignorance of details which is contained in the project of Iran."

The villages and towns of (Muhaymidah, al-Hosan, al-Hawayj, Zagir Jazira, al-Sa'wa, Hammar al-Ali, Hatla, Marat, and al-Bukamal) are among the most densely converted to Shia doctrine areas. Where husseiniyyas were built, and the call to prayers was raised in Shia way, in light of the facilities and privileges by the branches of security and competent organs of the Assad regime, all this was done amid a complete media blackout on this change, which affects the community of Deir al-Zour.

Iran and direct invasion

After the Syrian revolution in 2011, Iran felt the danger behind this popular uprising and the direct threat posed by the Syrian revolution to its interests and its deeply rooted project in Syria. It rushed to enter the scene in Syria and joined itself in the Syrian arena as an international player with the right of guardianship over Syria through the submission of the Assad family to the al-Wali al-Faqih regime, and the first step taken by Iran is to send first-class military advisers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria in 2011 to assess the situation and take the necessary measures, the Iranian General (Hussein Hamdani) at the head of Iran's mission to Syria, and He was responsible for bringing the Lebanese Hezbollah militia to Syria to defend Assad. Hamdani also worked to form the core of the National Defense Militia from the unofficial military forces in a sectarian tone that overshadowed its leadership. He then worked to bring Shiite militias from Iraq and Afghanistan under the pretext of "Sacred duty" to protect the Shiite sanctuaries in Syria, and concentrated the forces and Shiite militias that Iran attracted to Syria in Damascus and its countryside, while it was looking forward to Deir al-Zour, which was liberated from the Assad regime by 90% of its land area from 2012 to 2017.

In late 2017, Assad's forces, backed by Iranian militias and Shiite militias under Russian air cover, launched a massive campaign to recapture Deir al-Zour. Iran managed to control the southern bank of the Euphrates River in Deir al-Zour province with its arms of the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Shiite popular crowd.

In the Battle of Deir al-Zour, Iran put its whole weight in the battle of Deir al-Zour, where Major General "Qasem Soleimani" oversaw himself the course of battles against ISIS in Deir al-Zour. More than a dozen of Shiite militias participated in the battles there, including "al-Baqir Brigade, the ISIS hunters militia, Fatimia Brigade, the Lebanese Hizballah and the Iraqi Hizballah, the Jaafari Force militia, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Force."

* Iran in Deir al-Zour: Violations and war crimes

As soon as the Assad forces and the Iranian militias took control of the southern bank of the Euphrates River of the province of Deir al-Zour, until Iran began to complete the chapters of its project, which it had started three decades ago, and has re-activated the role of its men in the province, led by "Yassin al-Mayouf" and "Hussein al-Raja" who constitute the Iranian civil tide in Deir al-Zour, in addition to following direct and rapid steps in spreading of the Shiite doctrine presented by the pressure on the youth in Deir al-Zour, and the methods of harassment and using violence and humiliation against them in order to force them to volunteer in Shiite militias deployed in the province, to protect themselves and their families from arbitrary arresting and humiliation practiced by Shiite militias against them.

Deir al-Zour and its villages witnessed mass arrests of young men from Deir al-Zour who were insulted and beaten under sectarian slogans by the elements, as in the neighborhoods of "Hrabesh", "al-Qusour" and "al-Joura" in Deir al-Zour and in al-Bokamal city at the beginning of this year. NSO has been able to communicate with eyewitnesses, who have confirmed that many men were branded as profane sectarian slogans at checkpoints in these neighborhoods and in a well-known shopping center called "Abbara", after which they were taken to prison.

"The Shiite militias have dealt with the people in Deir al-Zour with extreme cruelty," Hassan, 25, told NSO. "Young people received the greatest share of torture and insults in order to force them to serve in the militias, and these militias also require young people to change their religious doctrine to Shi'ism to be accepted in their ranks."
On the other hand, Iran has changed the names of some mosques in Deir al-Zour, and converted a mosque in the neighborhood of Joura to a center to distribute relief to those in need to exploit their poverty and subject them to convert to Shia. It also established a large Hasiniyah in the "Ein Ali" archaeological area in the Badia of the city of Qouriya in Deir al-Zour eastern countryside, to make it a religious shrine.

Demographic change

After the triple attack of Iran, the Assad regime and Russia to take control of Deir al-Zour in late 2017, the province witnessed an unprecedented displace movement to escape the death machine imposed on them, controlled by the Assad forces and Shiite militias on semi-empty areas of the population, prompting Iran to benefit in this case, it invited Shiite families from Iraq and gave them title deeds for property and property belonging to civilians wanted for the Assad regime in the city of al-Bukamal and a number of villages in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zour.

NSO couldn't obtain photographs of these bonds, but these incidents were told by civilians from al-Bokamal who went to inspect their homes after the campaign on their area. They found Iraqi residents, estimated of 50 families and told them they had bought the houses.

Iran has also initiated a settlement project in the city of Deir al-Zour, run by people assigned by the Assad regime, who take the title of the owners of "real estate offices." This project extends to the river bed of the city (from Rashidiya through al-Nahr ST to  al-Sina'a neighborhoods and Hrabash), The sale and purchase by brokers of the city for the benefit of Iranian parties with the owners of real estate by tempting them with large sums of money equal to at least twice the value of the house required.

Abu Tarek, who lives in al-Qusor neighborhood told NSO about the time they tried to buy his house in al-Rashdiah neighborhood, "One of the brokers phoned me and asked to meet me for an important matter. When the meeting took place, he tried to convince me to sell my house for a fancy sum of 60 million Syrian pounds (About 120,000 US dollars) and told me that many of my neighbors had sold their homes. "

Abu Tarek continued: "He was honest. a few days ago, one of my neighbors told me that he had sold his small apartment, which is 100 meters in size, at a very large sum of 30 million Syrian pounds (about $ 60,000) to the same office that contacted me.
He added: "I refused to sell my house to them categorically, but I do not know what awaits me, they are monsters."

As a completion to the Assad-Iranian demographic change, the head of the regime, Bashar al-Assad, issued a decree earlier this month to take over the property of citizens living outside Syria unless they prove their ownership of the property.

It should be noted that the department of real estate interests in Deir al-Zour has been vandalized and burned since about three years, which will allow Iran to the process of settlement in Deir al-Zour, and the deprivation of citizens of their property under the previous decree.

The decree comes after a measure by the Assad regime, granting nearly 200,000 Iranian people a Syrian passport, according to sources close to the decision-making center in Damascus.

There seems to be no clear lines after which things will end up in Deir al-Zour, especially since America and its allies are the "Syrian Democratic Forces" on the other bank of the province, but what the rapid field events indicate is that Iran will not give up its project in Deir al-Zour easily to any party.

سوريا دير الزور ايران البوكمال الميلشيات الشيعية العراق نظام الاسد الهلال الشيعي لبنان حقول النفط عشائر قسد روسيا حزب الله الحشد الشعبي تغيير ديمغرافي

Rami Abu Alzien

Syrian press writer

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