Aleppo Doomed to Become a Shiite city after Falling to pro-Assad Forces

Aleppo, Syria’s second city, may share the fate which befell Iraq’s former Sunni cities of Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah, namely a Shiite takeover. The mass population exodus from the three Iraqi cities after they were seized by the Islamic State two years ago left in its wake deserted towns that were ripe for picking by the pro-Iranian Iraq Shiite militias, which last year spearheaded their liberation from jihadist occupation.
US military commanders on the ground of that assault objected in vain to the Shiite takeover and repopulation of the liberated Iraqi towns.
Aleppo looks like sharing the same fate after it is wrested from Syrian rebel control, this time with Russia’s silent consent.
In pursuit of this objective, DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources report that Iraqi Shiites are being called up in increasing numbers to fight for Aleppo, a campaign touted by their recruiters as a strategic mission of highest importance for Shiite Muslims.
In the third week of September, Al Qods chief Qassem Soleimani, supreme commander of Iranian forces in the Middle East, invited Iraq’s main Shiite militia leaders to Tehran and handed out their immediate assignment. Each was tasked with sending to the Aleppo battlefield 1,000 new recruits every two weeks, after giving them weapons training.
They were given two rallying cries: Capture Aleppo and make it a Shiite city! and Save Sayyed Zainab! and the Shiite shrines in Syria.
The catastrophic 70-80 percent rate of unemployment in Baghdad and the Shiite cities of southern Iraq offer fertile ground for recruiters, some of them Shiite clerics, especially when the call to holy jihad is sweetened by promises of high wages, clothing and food, as well as compensation for families of the fallen.
However, according to DEBKA Weekly’s military experts, their training is totally inadequate for being dumped into the fierce street battles of Aleppo. Some of the new recruits don’t know how to use the weapons they were given. Their casualty rate is therefore inordinately high. Of the estimated 7,500 young Iraqi Shities sent to Syria thus far, up to 800 (more than one-tenth) have been killed or wounded in action.
Sources monitoring these forces say that the Shiite militias which have attached themselves to the two big Iraqi Shiite groups, the Popular Mobilization Forces and the Badar Brigades, are drawing salaries and subsidies allocated by the Iraqi government to army fighters, as well as funding from Iran.
Up to 21,000 Shiite fighting personnel are estimated by our sources to be currently fighting with the Syrian army for the capture of Aleppo. They include about 2,000 Iranian officers and enlisted men, most belonging to elite units of the Revolutionary Guards, and about 7,000 each of Lebanese Hizballah troops, pro-Iranian Pakistani and Afghan militiamen, and new Iraqi recruits.
They are fighting with app. 5,000 Syrian soldiers, members of President Bashar Assad’s Alawite clan.
Aleppo therefore is confronted with two cataclysmic consequences after its fall to the Syrian-led army and pro-Iranian Shiite legion:
1. Once the largest Sunni city in the country, its commercial and financial center with 2.3 million inhabitants, Aleppo will decline into a Shiite city with a shrunken population of no more than several hundred thousand.
2. Many of the Sunni anti-Assad rebel militias, which lost the battle and were forced to retreat, will fall into the arms of the radical Islamist Nusra Front organization, renamed Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and the Islamic State.

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