by David Patrikarakos
Friday, 10
June 2022
News
15:30

Hezbollah and Iran’s new plot against the West

Their fighters are infiltrating into northeastern Syria
by David Patrikarakos
Hezbollah militants on parade. Photo: MAZEN AKL/AFP via Getty Images

Sources in Syria bring disconcerting news. Lebanese Hezbollah — the largest, most active, and most powerful Iranian-aligned militia — is infiltrating fighters into northeastern Syria and setting up sleeper cells where Coalition forces are stationed. Soldiers and commanders are now in Hasakah city, the capital of the Al-Hasakah Governorate. So far they are mainly in the regime-controlled Security Square and Al-Meridian neighbourhood. They are also in Qamishli and regime bases.

They are not supposed to be there, of course, so they hide their presence — disguising themselves as Syrian regime soldiers and slipping in among its army units. Damascus has little choice but to allow this to satisfy the demands of its patron, Iran.

My sources tell me that Hezbollah officers and soldiers share HQs and buildings in the Security Square with other Iran-aligned militias and Syrian regime forces. There is now a military “company”-sized group (50-100) of Hezbollahis in Hasakah — not large enough to cause significant damage to the Syrian Defence Forces and Coalition but large enough to engage in hostile activities against them, which is what they are doing.

They are there to do several things in fact — all geared toward strengthening Iran’s knowledge of and presence in coalition forces. First is to spy. Their forces in Hasakah city are gathering intelligence on the SDF and Coalition to more effectively plan destabilisation activities, such as encouraging women and children to physically block the passage of Coalition convoys. During the Gweiran Prison siege, they also launched small-scale attacks on the SDF — disguised as Isis.

They’re also expanding. In the last six months, Hezbollah has recruited around 800 local Syrians to train for ‘Popular Resistance’ sleeper cells. Training takes place south of Qamishli in Hezbollah bases like Tal Haj Badr Training Camp. After training, they are paid 100,000SYP a month to sit and await activation. Like other Iranian militias, Hezbollah tries to recruit young people through tribal connections. The Al-Tayy, Shammar and Bani Saba’a tribes are major ‘pools’ for recruitment.

What makes Hezbollah such a potent force is not just its military prowess but its political skill. Reports reach me that Hajj Iyad, a Hezbollah commander in Hasakah is busy handing out aid packages to members’ families in the city — right in the Security Square. Other aid distribution is linked to ‘clandestine’ proselytisation efforts by Iran-linked groups.

The risk of conflict is growing. Most immediately, US forces are present in nearby Al-Shaddadi and they regularly patrol the area. More broadly, Hezbollah also now threatens the UK’s interest in effective counter-Isis operations. The Gweiran Prison break showed the world that Isis remains both active and dangerous. Iran is calculating that if coalition and SDF forces get bogged down in a fight with Hezbollah then, beyond the immediate damage they can inflict, then Isis will be given valuable breathing space. The terror attack and foreign fighter threats will grow.

We need to watch northeast Syria. It is there that Iran is preparing for a renewed battle with the West.

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Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
19 days ago

Another example of Unherd’s value. Our MSM can’t stop salivating over parties, so I’d heard nothing about this prison break or these developments

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
18 days ago

“Iran is calculating that if coalition and SDF forces get bogged down in a fight with Hezbollah…then Isis will be given valuable breathing space.”

Colour me skeptical that using Hezbollah to strengthen ISIS by tying up Western forces is anywhere on Iran’s priority list. Exactly the other way round is a tad more plausible.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
17 days ago

morbidly fascinating as to how the meeja so ignore the Islamic insurgency wars throughout the continent of Africa, and are so beholden to Islamic interests/ political pressure groups, most notably in The Uk, which also sees zero coverage of Muslim nations abuse of Christians…

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
16 days ago

Lebanon doesn’t really get a mention in this interesting piece.
But the current Venezuela-style collapse of Lebanon , exacerbated by the power of Hezbollah within the country, deserves some reporting, somewhere.
Like Venezuela, it was heralded to many outsiders by the exodus of middle-class professionals and businesspeople over many years, driven mad by corruption and incompetence in government. We know and talk to these people. Such hollowed-out countries can collapse in two ways, as per Hemingway: “Gradually, then suddenly”.
Commentators refused to acknowledge what was happening in Venezuela until much too late. Looks like it will be the same for Lebanon, which had been , within living memory, thriving.

D Walsh
D Walsh
19 days ago

If the Syrian government and the Syrian people want Hezbollah’s help to defeat ISIS, then thats their business. if the Zionists don’t like it, well hard luck

FAO Zionists, the goyim have no interest fighting Hezbollah for you

harry storm
harry storm
17 days ago
Reply to  D Walsh

“Zionists” on the brain. There’s a term for that.

D Walsh
D Walsh
17 days ago
Reply to  harry storm

Yawn
You would have to be blind or stupid not to spot the Tribe pushing or more wars in the Middle East

Hezbollah are no threat to the West

harry storm
harry storm
12 days ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Bigotry usually goes hand in hand with ignorance, as vividly illustrated here.