Iran and Syria Sponsored The Hezbollah-ISIS Prisoner Swap

The prisoner swap between Hezbollah and ISIS on August 28 that saw the release of over 300 ISIS militants and 8 Hezbollah militants and one Iranian was reportedly sponsored by Iran and Syria.

The official deal was halted by an American air strike destroying the roads connecting the bus of ISIS militants to an ISIS controlled territory in Syria.

The local super powers and enemies of ISIS, Iran and Syria, sponsored the negotiations and prisoner swap. Columnist Raghida Dergham of the Huffington Post claimed that the release of hundreds of ISIS militants benefits the local super-powers both diplomatically and economically.

Iran has been trying to strengthen its presence in Lebanon and Iraq, having already secured a strong base in Syria. As part of the Hezbollah-ISIS deal, ISIS surrendered to Hezbollah, but not the Lebanese army. The Lebanese army cannot take credit for bringing stability to their state, which weakens their appearance to the public.

The militants released were on route to the Syrian-Iraqi border. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi criticized the deal but his predecessor and Iranian supporter, Nouri al-Maliki supported the deal. This move symbolizes an attempt by Maliki to weaken the government.

The current regime of Iran has an interest in the creation and maintenance of a ‘Shi’ite Crescent’ which would create a geographical strip of countries from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean of Iranian-supported Shi’ite states. This would link Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran, though the project that aims to do so was halted during the emergence of ISIS. However, ISIS has given the Syrian and Iranian regimes an excuse to conduct land grabs. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been stationed in Syria in support of the Syrian President Assad. The IRGC relies on Hezbollah to maintain an Iranian influence in Lebanon.

This is not the first time Syria has supported the release of ISIS militants. The Syrian government released militants from Syrian prisons with the prime objective to destroy moderate rebel groups.

Under the guise of fighting terrorism alongside Moscow and Washington, the IRGC is utilizing every opportunity to strengthen their presence in the region, either through strengthening their allies like Hezbollah or building a military presence in Syria.



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