Widespread poverty in the Syrian Golan Heights makes youth susceptible to being recruited by Iran and its Hezbollah proxy, a blueprint that succeeded in Lebanon.
By David Hellerman, World Israel News
Demographic shifts on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights are raising Israeli concerns of further Iranian entrenchment across the border, Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday.
“As the distress of Syrian civilians increases,” the paper reported, “Iran and Hezbollah will exploit the situation to recruit Shiite youth, like they did in Lebanon.”
When the Syrian civil war first broke out in 2011, Syria’s population of 21.3 million was 59 percent Sunni Muslim, 11% Alawite Muslim, and only 4% Shiites.
Today, however, in territories under Bashar Assad’s control — more than 60% of Syria — the overall population is around 10 million. Of that number, 10% are Shiite and 30% are Alawite.
“In other words, if Alawites accounted for some 15% of the Syrian population a decade ago, they now account for some 40% of the population in areas under Assad’s control,” Israel Hayom reported.
Widespread poverty makes youth especially susceptible to being recruited by Iran and its Hezbollah proxy, a blueprint Hezbollah succeeded with in Lebanon, Israel Hayom noted.
In Lebanon’s Shiite strongholds, Hezbollah runs schools and youth groups, as well as an extensive welfare network which provides food, health care and financial support.
It’s not known how much of this is subsidized by Iran.
Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah claimed in 2021 that the terror group had 100,000 men ready to fight, a figure which Israel and the West dismiss as exaggerated.
In 2017, Jane’s assessed that Hezbollah had more than 25,000 full-time fighters and perhaps 20,000–30,000 reservists.