May 10, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11324

Reports: Assad Regime, Iranian Militias Have Sent Reinforcements To Al-Suwayda In Southern Syria In Order To Besiege Jordan

May 10, 2024
Iran, Jordan, Syria | Special Dispatch No. 11324

In late April 2024, the Syrian regime began sending military reinforcements to the Al-Suwayda governorate in southern Syria, near the border with Jordan, which  reportedly include operatives of Iran-backed militias.

Although the Al-Suwayda governorate, which has a Druze majority, is officially under the control of the Syrian regime, this regime lacks a strong security presence there. Moreover, since August 2023 the area has seen a series of protests against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and occasionally against Iran.[1]

Al-Suwayda and the other governorates in southern Syria are important regions for international and regional elements that are involved in and affected by events in Syria, and the military presence of Iran and its militias is a source of concern for Syria's neighbors, Jordan and Israel.[2] Since the outbreak of the war in Gaza, the importance of the Al-Suwayda governorate has increased, since it can be used by Iran as a front against Israel and against Jordan, which is also threatened by Iran.[3]

The reinforcements were sent to Al-Suwayda after several Syrian officers were arrested by armed factions in the governorate in an attempt to pressure the Syrian security agencies to release a student from Al-Suwayda who was arrested in Latakia province last February on charges of supporting protests against the regime.[4] The student was indeed released on April 29, 2024, prompting the release of the Syrian officers,[5] but Syrian and Iranian military reinforcements, including tanks, armored vehicles and dozens of troops, were nonetheless send to the governorate.

Military reinforcements in Al-Suwayda governorate (Source:, April 26, 28, 2024).

It should be noted that even before the reinforcements were sent to Al-Suwayda, Hizbullah and other Iran-backed militias maintained a presence there. According to Jusoor, a research institute affiliated with the Syrian opposition, as of November 2023 there were 12 military outposts of Hizbullah and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corpse (IRGC), in the area, whose members were primarily engaged in recruiting fighters, overseeing the smuggling of drugs and weapons into Jordan, securing weapon storehouses and manning surveillance positions near the Israeli and Jordanian borders.[6]

Similarly, on April 22, 2024, likewise before the reinforcements were sent to the area, the Kurdish North Press Agency reported widespread deployment of Iran-backed militias throughout southern Syria. The agency estimated that there were tens of thousands of militia operatives deployed along the Jordan-Syria border, from the eastern part of the Al-Suwayda governorate to the Yarmouk Basin in the Daraa governorate.[7]

Outposts manned by foreign forces in Al-Suwayda governorate, as of late November 2023 (Source:, November 24, 2023)

According to the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the reinforcements sent to Al-Suwayda include 1,200 Syrian soldiers, in addition to operatives of the Afghan Fatemiyoun and Pakistani Zainebiyoun militias, which are loyal to Iran.[8] Hussein Abdulbaqi, the commander of a local faction in Al-Suwayda called Tajamu' Ahrar Jabl Al-Arab, confirmed that the reinforcements include members of Iran-backed militias.[9]

The opposition-affiliated Euphrates Eye media outlet, which covers eastern Syria, reported on May 4, 2024 that approximately 100 operatives from the Iran-backed Iraqi Al-Nujaba militia had entered Syria from Iraq ahead of their deployment in Al-Suwayda.[10]

Sources Assess: The Syrian And Iranian Reinforcements Are Aimed Against Jordan, Not Against Local Protests

Since the Syrian regime has not published an official statement about the forces being deployed in Al-Suwayda, there has been much speculation about the purpose of their deployment. Local factions and Druze religious scholars assessed that the forces were meant to suppress the protests in the governorate and to strengthen the regime's control of it.[11] However, sources in Damascus quoted by the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily believe that the reasons for the deployment go beyond this, and are related to changes in the regional power-balance in light of the current war in the Gaza Strip. The sources said that, in the aftermath of the war in Gaza, the Syrian regime and its allies will be required to regain control of the southern Syria front, especially in the Al-Suwayda governorate, which borders Jordan, due to the fact that Jordan participated in intercepting drones launched by Iran towards Israel on April 14, 2024,[12] and following military operations conducted by Jordan inside Syrian territory to counter drug-trafficking activity in which Iran-backed militias have been reportedly involved. According to these sources, there are indications that the Syrian regime, in cooperation with Iran, is launching a new security and military initiative with the goal of redeploying Syrian forces along the country's southern border.[13]

Similarly, Syrian human rights activist Salam Abbas told the Qatari daily Al-Arabi Al-Jadid that the primary purpose of the reinforcements, which, she said, include many Iran-backed militia operatives, is to besiege Jordan due to its involvement in intercepting Iran's drones on April 14. She described the reinforcements as part of the "Shi'ite expansion."[14]

The "Al-Suwayda ANS" Facebook page shared several posts asserting that the military reinforcements arriving in the governorate include Syrian operatives loyal to Iran and to Hizbullah and aim to increase tensions between pro-regime and anti-regime Druze in the region, in order to shift focus to southern Syria so that Israel will de-escalate its operations against Hizbullah in southern Lebanon.[15]


[1] This is not the first time that such protests have taken place in the governorate in the past several years. See MEMRI Reports: Inquiry & Analysis No. 1516, Syrian Opposition: Anti-Regime Protests In Al-Suwayda Give Us Hope Of Toppling The Regime, June 22, 2020; Special Dispatch No. 10405, Wave Of Anti-Regime Protests In Southern Syria: Long Live Syria; Down With Bashar Al-Assad, January 5, 2023.

[2] When the Syrian regime regained control of large parts of its southern territory in 2018, there were reports about an understanding between the U.S., Russia, Israel, and Jordan according to which the Iran-backed militias would terminate their presence in the area. However, their presence has continued. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No, 1408, Contrary To The Understandings Reached With Russia, Iranian And Iran-Affiliated Forces Are Participating In The Fighting In Southern Syria, July 19, 2018.

[4], April 29, 2024.

[5], April 29, 2024.

[6], November 24, 2023.

[7], April 22, 2024.

[8] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), May 4, 2024.

[9], May 4, 2024.

[10], May 4, 2024.

[11], May 1, 2024.

[13] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, (London), May 4, 2024.

[14] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (Qatar), May 5, 2024.

[15], April 27-29, 2024.

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