Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been stepping up its purchase of land in Syria's Deir Ezzor province, a local activist said.
These purchases are either carried out through direct transactions with the Syrian regime, or are facilitated by Syrian intermediaries operating on behalf of the IRGC, Deir Ezzor activist Jamil al-Abed told Diyaruna.
Through either means, the end result is that the IRGC has purchased "large tracts of land, houses and shops" in various parts of Deir Ezzor, particularly in the vicinity of Albu Kamal and Mayadeen, al-Abed said.
Iran's attempt to bolster its influence in eastern Syria serves its regional agenda to open up a passage to Lebanon and the Mediterranean through which it can funnel fighters and arms and expand trade.
In purchases facilitated by the Syrian regime, IRGC officers work with Syrian government institutions to acquire factories owned by absentee landowners -- Syrians who have been out of the country for years, al-Abed said.
Once the transaction has been completed, the official paperwork is filed with the Syrian Ministry of Industry, he said.
In other cases, IRGC officers or their representatives pay large sums of money to acquire land, sometimes offering to triple the market value of the property, to entice the owner to complete the sale, al-Abed said.
This approach has been "somewhat successful" due to the state of the Syrian economy and the prevailing poverty in the region, he said.
Some of the Syrians who collaborate with the IRGC in this endeavor have been identified, he said, including two men from the village of al-Husseiniya, who founded an IRGC-affiliated militia.
These men have been buying up property on a large scale, he said, and station members of their militia on the property they purchase until it has been signed over to the IRGC.
According to al-Abed, "the militia also has been harassing property owners who refuse to sell to the IRGC, with the goal of forcing them to acquiesce".
"Civilians in the region are turning to the IRGC because they a have tense relationship with the Syrian regime, which has reneged on several agreements it made with local tribesmen," he said.
These tensions were fueled when regime forces arrested 40 youth from Mayadeen, and hauled them away to serve their mandatory military service.
This was after the Syrian regime had promised tribal elders it would delay their mandatory service for an extended period, or exempt them from having to serve altogether, al-Abed said.