IRGC, regime embroiled in Deir Ezzor dispute
By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo
Tension between Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and militias affiliated with the Syrian regime have reached a boiling point over the issue of control of the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, a Syrian activist said.
There also has been widespread anger over the Syrian regime’s demand that youth fighting in the ranks of IRGC-affiliated militias report for compulsory military and reserve duty to serve the Syrian state.
Tensions between the two sides have rippled out from the city of Deir Ezzor to the surrounding areas, especially those dominated and controlled by local tribes, activist Jamil al-Abed told Diyaruna.
Al-Bakara tribal leader Nawaf al-Bashir, who answers directly to the IRGC, is trying to expand his militia’s area of control in Deir Ezzor and its hinterland and beyond to the city of Albu Kamal, at the expense of the Syrian regime.
"There was an initial confrontation between Sattouf al-Merhi, a prominent commander of the Syrian regime-affiliated militias, and al-Bashir," al-Abed said.
"The dispute subsequently expanded to involve Sobhi Zayed al-Hanan, who is known to have strong relations with the regime’s intelligence apparatus," he said.
Al-Hanan is a member of al-Bakara tribe as well, but refuses to be subordinate to the IRGC, al-Abed said. He has maintained his relations with the regime over the past years, and is a supporter of the decree on military and reserve service.
Summoned by Syrian regime
Al-Bashir was summoned to Damascus a few days ago, and he remains there.
The summons came on account of the disputes and al-Bashir’s refusal to follow the orders issued by the Syrian regime with regard to the enforcement of mandatory military and reserve service, al-Abed said.
Al-Bashir publicly announced his refusal to follow these orders at a rally in the city of Deir Ezzor, he noted.
"From al-Bashir’s point of view, enforcing the decree would cost him much of his strength, since all elements of the militia he heads are wanted for mandatory military service," al-Abed said.
He is therefore trying to assemble his fighters and move them to the village of Muhaymidah, his birthplace, which is outside the control of both the regime and the IRGC, to help them evade military and reserve service, he added.