When ISIS controlled large swathes of Deir Ezzor in western Syria and also the western regions in Iraq in 2014, Iran took advantage of that and reinforced its presence in Deir Ezzor, with the affiliation of Popular Mobilization Militias in Iraq and the Afghani, Pakistani, militias in addition to the groups of Zaynabiyoun and Fatimiyoun that belong to the IRGC.
Reliable sources confirmed to MENA Research Center that Iran’s military affiliates are already deployed in the entire province in general and in Albukamal and al-Mayadeen in particular. However, the IRGC has turned some sites into special centers for it, such the Agricultural Studies Centre and the depots that are adjacent to it, where the IRGC manufactures chemical substances and gases that will be used in missiles and bombs.
Iran has started working in that site since 2018. No one is allowed to enter the site, including the Syrian regime’s soldiers, unless in some special cases if the IRGC needs technicians of experts in some other fields. Usually those are chosen from the soldiers and officers loyal to Iran.
The IRGC has intensified the presence on security guards in that area, and it installed surveillance cameras around the whole area and inside the depots, while on the roof there are soldiers who have sophisticated snipers.
The site is being guarded by a battalion affiliated with the Fatemiyoun Brigade, led by Samer Soufan, who is from the Shiite village of Al-Fu`ah in Idlib countryside. The estimated number of hidden guard members is 50; they also escort the substances coming to the headquarters, which are usually transported by air via Iranian airlines, Qasem Fares Air. Iran Air, as well as MahanAir.
The shipments arrive to Damascus airport or al-Seen military airbase, and are escorted by IRGC units and al-Quds Force. For transportation, they use trucks carrying Red Crescent’s logo and this is to protect them from aerial bombardment, and when they arrive to Deir Ezzor, the Fatimiyoun battalion takes them to the site.
The sources indicated that important figures visit the place frequently, including Safidar, the Afghani military commander, who is in charge of security headquarters and weapons depots in Deir Ezzor, , as well as Brigadier General Muhammad Reza Falahzadeh, nicknamed Abu Baqer, who is the deputy commander of the IRGC militia and the commander of the Deir Ezzor operations room, in addition to Muhammad R. Asfari, a commander in the Basij forces.
MENA sources estimated the number of workers at the headquarters, including experts, technicians and engineers at about 20 people, they wear military uniforms, but they also wear plastic uniforms that cover the entire body, including the head, to protect against chemicals. That plastic cover is equipped with masks, which confirms that the materials that are dealt with inside the site are dangerous chemicals.
In the place there are industrial tools and machines, hydraulic presses, industrial lathes, welding and cutting tools, in addition to cranes installed on the ceiling with electric transmission rails. In addition to dozens of multi-colored plastic containers filled with liquid materials, in addition to dozens of barrels, and bags containing materials likely to be ammonium nitrate, some of which were transported, according to the sources, to Abu Al-Fida Airport in Hama, where there is a College of Military Chemistry and is supervised by the IRGC.
Chemicals and Shiism
It seems that it wasn’t enough for Iran and its militias to control the greater part of Deir Ezzor and spread Shiism between those who remained there, but rather pursued the people who fled towards southern Damascus, which is more than 350 km away, with the aim of converting them to Shiism through some tribesmen who have good relations with the IRGC, especially in the Sayyida Zainab area, south of Damascus, where the IRGC were able to buy many real estate and homes at high prices.
Observers of the Iranian movement in Syria found in Iran’s attempt to intensify its presence in all areas of southern Damascus, an attempt to establish the Southern Suburb of Damascus similar to the Southern Dahiya of Beirut, the main stronghold of Hezbollah militias in the Lebanese capital.