Russia reinforces presence in Syria as Iranian IRGC increase activity

As the Iranian IRGC (Revolutionary Guard) forces have increased their activity in Syria, Russian forces are trying to send a message to the Syrian people and the international community that Moscow is still the dominant force in the southern part of the country, local activists said.

Their most recent display comes as Iran-aligned militias attempt to penetrate Russian-dominated areas via recruitment campaigns and forge deals with local drug traffickers to carry out money-generating smuggling operations, they said.

Regional and international understandings have been reached over the past years under which Russia pledged to control and prevent the advance of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) allied militias.

But when Russia became distracted by the Ukraine war, Iranian IRGC allied factions tried to expand in the south, especially along the Jordan border.

An “unusual” Russian patrol of more than 10 military vehicles — with Russian and Syrian officers led by Daraa military security branch chief Luay al-Ali — recently toured the Jordan border area.

The patrol also stopped in Busra al-Sham, prompting the Iranian IRGC-backed militias to disappear during the Russian patrol tour.

Iran-allied militias, especially Hezbollah and the Syrian regime’s 4th Division, led by Bashar al-Assad’s brother, Maher, “have opened the door of recruitment for locals in a noticeable way”, said Daraa-based activist Jumaa al-Masalmeh.

“The pace of Iranian deployments recently has been stepped up, in the wake of airstrikes that target Iranian forces and allied militias,” he said.

In addition to their recruitment campaigns, Iran-allied militias are entering into deals with drug traffickers, dealers, and distributors, he said.

They also have built more than one plant for the production of narcotic pills, which they smuggle across the Jordan border, Bou Ali said.

“The local population opposes these activities which have led to tensions as tribal chiefs and dignitaries refuse to see their areas turned into a source of those drugs for any destination,” he said.


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