Wed 15 Jul 2020

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Kafr Nubul: First target of Iran’s interests in Idlib’s areas south of M4 highway

Military vehicles carrying the Iranian flag in Syria (Reuters)

Military vehicles carrying the Iranian flag in Syria (Reuters)

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Omran Center for Strategic Studies has reported that it monitored the activity of Iranian establishments in the recently captured areas by the Syrian regime in rural Idlib.

In an interview with Enab Baladi, the Information Unit manager and military expert at Omran Center, Nawar Shaban, said on 29 March that Jihad al-Bina, a real estate development association run by Hezbollah in Lebanon and supported by Iran, has sent relief aids’ baskets to people who started settling in Kafr Nubul area in rural Idlib.

Shaban pointed out that the Omran Center has lately monitored the departure of three buses from Kamhana and Halfaya areas in the countryside of Hama to al-Abaseen area in Homs province, where they gathered and headed to Kafr Nubul.

He said the aid-loaded buses transported few people of unknown nationalities, indicating they could be the original residents of the area. Still, it is more likely that they are the families of fighters belonging to the Lebanese “Hezbollah” militia, who are engaged in the battels of rural Idlib.

Shaban confirmed that the suspicious activity of the Jihad al-Binaa Development Association in Kafr Nubul could not be compared to what it is doing in Deir Ezzor and Daraa provinces and the neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo.

Areas south of M4 highway

Shaban also focused on the areas sitting south of the M4 international highway that links Aleppo and Lattakia, expecting an accelerated activity for Iran there. He said Iran has proved effective in filling the political vacuum created by the withdrawal of the Syrian opposition from its previously controlled areas, as it happened in Deir Ezzor countryside, Daraa and Aleppo.

The military expert expected that Iran would continue supporting its loyalists in the regions south of the M4 highway, based on its strategic policy of filling the void of power, explaining that Iran targets areas emptied of its original residents to create a new segment of settlers in society.

Shaban ruled out the possibility that Iran wants to expand its influence to include regions south of the M4 highway in rural Idlib. He also mentioned several reasons for that, including Iran’s limited current financial capacity due to its economic crisis and the US’s sanctions, as well as the massive spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in Iran. Nevertheless, Shaban stressed the idea that Iran seeks to set foot in this region.

Shaban further added that Iran’s interests in expanding its influence are centered in Deir Ezzor and Aleppo more than in Idlib.

Recently, the Syrian regime, backed by Iranian militias on land and Russian air force, was able to control several strategic towns and cities in the countryside of Idlib, including Kafr Nubul, Saraqib, Maarat al-Numan, and Khan Shaykhun, all of which lie south of the M4 international highway.

The original residents of these areas fled their homes due to the violent military operations, which were halted on 5 March, as by a cease-fire Russian-Turkish agreement. The cease-fire agreement reinforced the advancing position of the regime forces and limited the stationing of the opposition factions in some remaining areas north of the M4 highway.

The control map in north western Syria - 29 March 2020 (Livemap)

The control map of northwestern Syria – 29 March 2020 (Livemap)

Meanwhile, activists of Kafr Nubul documented the looting of civilian homes, through images published by the regime forces and their affiliated militias.

Jihad al-Binaa Development Association

Jihad al-Binaa Development Association was established in Lebanon in 1988, to create sustainable development in society through its various programs and projects, according to the association’s official website.

However, the association’s activity unfolds the fact that it is the “charitable and social development” wing of the “Hezbollah” militia, as it is headquartered in the southern district of Lebanon’s capital, Beirut. Moreover, the association is also linked to the pro-government militia, the National Defense Forces (NDF), and Iran’s The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The development association had previously contributed to the reconstruction of the southern suburbs of Beirut after the 2006 war in Lebanon before the US designated it in 2007 as a global terrorist organization.

It is worth mentioning that Jihad al-Binaa Association carries out significant projects in Syria, including the rehabilitation of schools, roads, and infrastructure in Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, and other cities, besides the provision of relief aids to the families of the Syrian fighters in the militias affiliated to Iran.

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