In a strong sign of rising anger across Syria’s streets and foundations against the existence and influence of Iran through its militia, armed conflicts took place between some Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated militia and the national Syrian Armed Forces.
The clashes took place when an IRGC militia expelled the National Defense Forces (NDS) supporting the Syrian regime from a military checkpoint, which was clarified by observers as a desire by Iran to increase the influence of its militias that are only loyal to Tehran.
Last October, Iranian militia arrested 15 members of the National Defense Army deployed in the town of Al Bukamal in the eastern suburb of Deir al-Zour after clashes between the two sides.
The arrest coincided with the deployment of Russian forces a few days ago in villages near the town of Al Bukamal, currently controlled by pro-Iranian militias, because of its geographical importance, being the link and supply route between Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria.
Observers believe that Iran is seeking to control Al Bukamal because it is considered the point of contact between Iraq and Syria, especially as it is the corridor that connects Iran to the Mediterranean Sea and provides its forces with uninterrupted military and logistical support.
Since the defeat of Daesh in Deir al-Zour in 2017, Iran has sought to entice the Syrians through service, educational projects, hospitals and clinics.
As for the number of Shiite militias operating under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates that the number of fighters of Iraqi militias in Syria ranges between 15 and 20 thousand fighters. The estimated number of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters is about 7-10 thousand fighters in addition to about five to seven thousand Afghan and Iranian fighters, but other estimates indicate that the total number may reach up to 80 thousand Shiite fighters.
Alex Fishman, a military commentator in Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, further pointed out that a deal will take place during the coming Russian-American-Israeli summit over future of Syria.
In the past, Iran tried to convince Russia to cooperate with them at the Latakia port, which is run by the Russian Navy. The Russians categorically refused.
The recent Russian-Iranian dispute over the Tartus port is yet another episode in a series of clashes between the two nations over control over strategic, economic and political assets in Syria.
According to the deal, Israel and the US will commit to recognizing the legitimacy of the Assad regime, the US is expected to remove some of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia and in return, Russia will limit Iranian activity in Syria.
Egyptian-based Iranian affairs expert Mohamed Banaya has told The Reference in an interview that the repetition of clashes between the National Defense Forces and Shiite militias indicate many scenes in Syria, including that there has been an escalation to end the authority of the Iran-affiliated militias that have been roaming Syria like they own the country.
According to Banaya, Russia seeks to end the Iranian existence in Syria along with the authority of sectarian militias, like what happened when Hezbollah decided to withdraw from Syria, pointing out that Iran’s reputation is receding, which backs any Syrian-Russian attempts to get Iran out of Syria.
He pointed out that the departure of Iranian militias and the reduction of the Iranian presence in Syria, will take a long time, and it will depend on the final settlement of the Syrian crisis.