Iran is seeking to expel hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslims from Damascus, the capital of Syria, “in an effort to cement local support for the regime [of President Bashar al-Assad],” according to a report in a pan-Arab daily cited by The Times of Israel yesterday.
According to the report, the overwhelmingly Shiite Iran is helping the regime to raze homes in the relatively plush Mezzeh neighborhood of Damascus, pushing out the Sunni residents in an effort to cement local support for the regime.
Hundreds of families living in the area were given just a few hours to evacuate their homes, the report said.
Iran recently sought to secure a ceasefire deal that would remove Sunnis from areas critical to Assad’s hold of the estimated one sixth of Syria which he still controls, and to replace them with Shiites who live in rebel-held areas, according to a report last week in the Christian Science Monitor.
The broader deal Iran sought was to transfer the Sunni population of Zabadani to rebel-held areas in exchange for the removal of Shiites of Fouaa and Kefraya from their homes to settle into regime-controlled areas around Damascus. For Iran and the Assad regime, such an arrangement would strengthen the Damascus government’s control over the key terrain linking the Syrian capital with the Mediterranean coast, the heartland of the Alawite community, a Shiite splinter sect to which Assad belongs.
But the cease-fire broke down after three days, reportedly when Ahrar ash-Sham and other factions rejected the sectarian population transfers and the Syrian regime refused a rebel demand for the release of 40,000 detainees.
[Photo: ben sedin / YouTube ]