Aleppo offensive: more Shiite Iraqi militias join Assad regime’s battle

Syrian Crisis: Assad-Russian airstrikes keep targeting Aleppo
On August 22, at least 15 women and children, all from the same family, were killed when Assad regime's warplanes targeted their home in Bab al-Nairab, Aleppo

An Iraqi Shiite militia fighting in Syria on the regime’s side has sent more than 1,000 extra fighters to southern parts of Aleppo over the past two days to reinforce its positions, the group’s spokesman Hashim al-Moussawi said on Wednesday.

The group, Harakat al-Nujaba, is fighting alongside the Assad regime’s forces, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, Iranian forces, and other militias against Syrian rebels fighting to end Assad regime’s role.

The arrival of reinforcements from Iraq shows how the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts have leapt borders, to become a broad sectarian war across the Middle East.

Hashim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi Shi’ite militia Harakat al-Nujaba, said its fighters would reinforce areas captured from the rebels in southern Aleppo.

The militia’s Twitter account showed pictures of its fighters at the Syrian front with Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for the elite Revolutionary Guards, who has led operations by Tehran’s allies in both Syria and Iraq.

Rebel commanders said they are preparing to launch their own counter-offensive aimed at breaking the siege of the city, which was reimposed in recent days following weeks of intense fighting around a military complex.

Rebels lost the complex of military colleges to pro-government forces on Sunday near the Ramousah area of southwestern Aleppo, where they had opened a way into the city.

Demographical change

Shiite Iraqi families are being sent to the newly evacuated areas in Syria, like Darayya, to change the demographics in the country, according to sources close to the activities of the Iranian-backed armed militias in Syria.

“The most important plan currently conducted by the armed militias, is to bring Iraqi families mostly coming from the southern Shi’ite-majority provinces, and place them in several Syrian areas, particularly in Daraya, Maadamiyat al-Sham and al-Midan,” the source said, adding that around 300 Iraqi families have already arrived to Syria with an aim to produce a demographic change.

The source said the new plan is conducted in coordination with the Syrian regime.

Speaking with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in London by telephone, the source, who lives in Beirut, said that Harakat al-Nujaba is the movement responsible for sending those Iraqi families by collaborating with other parties and factions in Syria.

He said Harakat al-Nujaba is headed by Akram al-Kaabi, a close ally to Iran and who has a direct relationship with Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

“Each family arriving to Syria receives a salary of $2,000 and a residence,” the source said.