Over the past few days, the Syrian regime has been leading a “reconciliation operation” in Albukamal in eastern Syria with the slogan “the youngsters’ redemption lies within education and building”. Young male residents are invited to recruitment centers located all over the city to “turn the page” with the Assad regime (whose pictures adorn the centers). In return for loyalty to the regime in Damascus, they are given the right to win lands in property auctions.
This operation mainly targets those who have evaded military service in the Syrian Army in the years of the civil war. The city’s youngsters are suspicious of the regime and fear imprisonment, and so many of them have already fled to areas under the control of the Syrian democratic militias and the international coalition forces led by the United States.
Like other reconciliation operations in southern Syria, the Assad regime sees great importance in the Albukamal operation. Several senior regime members, led by Major General Husam Luqa, head of Syrian Army Intelligence, visited Albukamal on the first day of the operation.
In our assessment, it is highly likely that the Iranians are behind this operation, as they have a significant interest in “ peace and quiet” in the Shiite Ground Axis area, which has strategic importance to the radical Shiite Axis led by Iran.
The Iranian militias that hold the true control of Albukamal and its surrounding area, placed many barriers throughout the city, which was nearly empty of its youngsters, in order to limit unauthorized media coverage of the operation. Many militia members were ordered to wear civilian clothing in accordance with the local fashion and be present at the recruitment centers, to give the impression that the operation is more successful than it was expected to be.