The entities fighting ISIS and its sleeper cells in Syria are many. In the province of Deir Ezzor, one can get a glimpse of the complicated scene, which includes US troops and Iranian forces and can either be seen as an unspoken agreement or a ticking bomb.
The city and its countryside are separated into two halves by the Euphrates, with the Syrian regime and Iranian forces on the western side of the river, and the US-led international coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and Deir Ezzor’s military council on the eastern side.
Al Arabiya has interviewed two men in the eastern side of the province, who claim the Iranians in the western side tried to recruit them to get intel on the forces in control.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, both men told Al Arabiya’s Rola al-Khatib that they’ve been contacted by the Iranians after it was known they had fought with the SDF against ISIS. They also confirmed that Iran has sleeper cells operating in the eastern part of the city.
Asked about what the Iranians want from the area, one of the interviewees said that “they want to control it,” adding that they scare people living there into volunteering for them by saying that soon enough “they will be here.”
The Iranians have reportedly increased their reinforcements in the two provinces of Deir Ezzor and al-Bukamal, according to eyewitnesses, after tensions increased between Tehran and Washington.
Seven hundred meters east of al-Rahba citadel in the Mayadin district, Deir Ezzor, the Iranian forces deployed a large missile covered in wood and directed it toward the eastern side of the Euphrates, where American troops are, witnesses said.
Several Iranian-controlled areas have fighters from different nationalities; Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis, and Lebanese. As evident in Al Arabiya’s interviews, they also recruit Syrians and turn them into Shiites.
Asked about his communication with the Iranians, one of the interviewees said that they did not only ask him “to become Shiite, but to turn others in the area into Shiites” as well.