Pro-Iranian and Iranian-backed militias are recruiting locals, buying up land and homes and even seeking "demographic change" in areas of Syria near the Euphrates River and along the corridor from the city of Deir Ezzor to Albukamal and other areas, according to a report.
This area has become festooned with bases and facilities linked to Iran and its militias, including the Imam Ali base near Albukamal and areas along the river and further inland toward the T-4 base, where Iran has assets.
"Destruction engulfs entire Syrian cities," Al-Ain media in the Gulf said in a report about how this will affect the Syrian countryside. The real-estate purchases take place not only in Deir Ezzor but also toward the city of Raqqa, which was once controlled by ISIS, the report said.
Deir Ezzor was under siege by the global jihadist movement during part of the Syrian civil war. Since 2019, Iran has sought to play a larger role in this corridor. The strategic corridor connects the Syrian regime to Iraq and also connects Hezbollah to pro-Iran militias in the country.
Missiles and weapons flow through this area. Militias linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including some recruited from faraway Afghanistan and Pakistan, have come to this area.
According to the article, the militias have intensified recruitment efforts. The article is apparently based on a report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said: "The Iranian militias, under orders from Tehran, have recruited young men from al-Mayadin, Albukamal and other areas in Deir Ezzor to implement their plan."
At least 78 properties have been purchased since the beginning of July, the report said. A source "identified the locations where the Iranian plan is being implemented in and around towns and villages in the countryside of Raqqa; they paid the prices without any bargaining."
This "unprecedented" expansion in areas in the Deir Ezzor Governorate has caught the attention of locals. According to the report, some of the local people have been forced to flee due to the properties changing hands. "Observers fear that personalities of non-Syrian nationalities will make purchases," the report said.
This could lead to demographic change. Locals say this already happened in Al-Mayadin and other places.
"Merchants from the city of Al-Mayadin who are directly affiliated with the pro-Iranian 'Al-Abbas Brigade' militia and operate under its command have continued to purchase real estate from residents throughout the eastern Ghouta regions," the report said.
In recent months, purchases focused on the areas of the southern sector of Eastern Ghouta, specifically in Zabadin, Deir al-Asafir, Hatita al-Turkman and al-Maliha, the report said. The real-estate investors target property that belongs to people who have fled the fighting in Syria over the past 10 years, it said.
The insinuation is that ownership will pass to foreigners or Shi'ites linked to Iran and thus to militia networks. The militias are linked to Iran and also to pro-Iranian militias in Iraq. Members of the Fatemiyoun, a Shi'ite militia recruited from Afghanistan, also operate there.
Seth J. Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.