Iran’s new brigade infiltrates tribes in eastern Syria
Since the start of 2021, Iran has started working on the formation of the Hashemiyoon military brigade in Syria, allowing only Shiites to join it. The newly formed faction, which began operating in mid-August, joined other pro-Iranian factions in Syria, including the Zainabiyoun, Fatemiyoun and al-Husseinoun brigades.
The Hashemiyoon Brigade has engaged in military operations in Syria, with offices and sites spread across the towns of al-Bukamal, al-Mayadin, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa in eastern Syria. New offices have also been opened in Aleppo and the countryside of Damascus.
The brigade is directly affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and is led by Youssef al-Hamdan, known as Abu Issa al-Mashhadani, and Musa al-Mahdmoud, both close to Tehran.
In August, the brigade was ordered to convince tribal sheikhs, mukhtars, clerics and other dignitaries and influential figures in eastern Syria to join the so-called Council of Tribes and Clans of the Valley of the Euphrates affiliated with Iran, with the aim of spreading Shiism in the region.
Those who would agree to join the council would be granted a document certifying that they are descended from the Hashemites (descendants of the Prophet Muhammad) and House Husseini (in reference to Hussein Ibn Ali, the son of Ali, cousin of the Prophet Muhammad and Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad). They would also receive political, military and media support, and funds to open a new headquarters for the recruitment and training of middle and high school students, in addition to organizing school trips to Iranian universities in the city of Qom.
A sheikh of the Bakara tribe in Deir ez-Zor told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity: “All members of the Hashemiyoon brigade are members of the tribe in the area, especially Deir ez-Zor. The brigade is estimated to have around 200 members to date. “
The brigade confiscated many homes in al-Bukamal and other towns and villages in the Euphrates region, turning them into sites for new recruits, according to the sheikh.
The citadel of Al-Rahba in the town of al-Mayadin has also been turned into an arms depot to protect weapons from airstrikes, he said, noting that the citadel also serves as a military site for the Iranian leaders of the brigade.
The main mission of the Hashemiyoon Brigade is to recruit tribal members and forcibly convert the population to Shiism, bribing influential tribal leaders, the source said.
“Tehran is well aware of the influence of tribes in this part of Syria, as they are the original inhabitants with the highest population density – which could help spread Shiism in Syrian communities. Also, Iran [resorted to tribes] because he could no longer cover all the fronts given the ongoing losses and the desertion of dozens of combatants, ”he noted.
He said: “Meetings are underway between tribal dignitaries in the region and Iranian leaders to recruit tribal members into the ranks of the new brigade and cover the battlefields against ISIS cells, the Syrian Democratic Forces. [SDF] and armed opposition factions.
The source added: “But these efforts to recruit tribal members will not succeed because we [the Bakara tribe] will wait for the right opportunity to eliminate the tribal leaders who are loyal to Iran and who have lost influence among the tribes. Iran has sought to use these leaders to serve its own interests, after ruling out opposing tribal leaders.
He continued, “Iran is ensuring that the newly formed brigade is made up of tribal members, as the tribes are spread across Iraq and Syria, which would help Tehran control and expand its influence more quickly in the region. [Euphrates] Region.”
Mudar Hammad al-Assaad, spokesperson for the Council of Syrian Tribes and Clans, told Al-Monitor: “Iran has used the Arab tribes to recruit their young people to fight alongside Iranian forces and gain their support. allegiance by offering them military and economic support among other benefits. Iran has also appointed many sheikhs in an attempt to undermine the role of the tribes, many of whom have joined the political opposition.
He said: “Tehran is trying to get the message across that the fighters from the tribes fighting with the opposition armed forces do not represent the clans. Many tribes support the Syrian regime and Iran, which widens the rift between members of the same clan. “
Assaad noted, “Amid the deteriorating economic and security situation, young people in the region are seeking to join Iranian-affiliated militias in an effort to evade arrests by the Syrian regime and gain support. money. The leaders of the Hashemiyoon Brigade also offer incentives – such as the power to conduct legal affairs and transactions in government departments – to attract young people, which is Iran’s tactic for recruiting people in the region.
He added: “In recent weeks, a group of tribal sheikhs has stepped up calls for recruitment. Iran is seeking tribesmen to join its ranks because hiring foreign fighters is much more expensive. “
According to the Al-Khabour network covering the news in the eastern Euphrates, Iran has failed to militarily control the eastern Euphrates and is now working to control it thanks to the support of loyal local leaders in Tehran and the formation of tribal councils as well as the appointment of new sheikhs from tribes and smaller families belonging to Ahl al-Bayt (in reference to the extended family of the Prophet Muhammad), with the aim of spreading Shiism in the region.
Private sources cited by Al-Khabour said Iran had announced its support for the Bani Saba clan to hold a conference on October 13 in the SDF-controlled Qamishli region to separate itself from the Tay tribe, one of the largest tribes in Syria which has no affiliation with any party.
The same sources reported that Iran had provided funds for the Bani Saba dignitaries to be distributed to the families of the Tay tribe in Qamishli, with the aim of earning their loyalty and allegiance.
Anas Shawakh, a researcher at the Jusoor Center for Studies, told Al-Monitor: “The Hashemiyoon Brigade aims to sow discord among the Arab tribes and associate them with Iran, Ahl al-Bayt and the Hashemites. The brigade succeeded in creating rifts in the Tay tribe, after the Bani Saba clan announced that it was parting ways to become independent.
He said, “These deserted tribes and clans will have to join military factions, which is why the brigade was formed, to embrace them all. With this decision, Russia would no longer be able to expel Iran from the region, as Tehran has managed to infiltrate deeply into the social fabric of the region, thus achieving the desired goal. “