Iran has decided to unite its Shiite militias operating in Syria into one organization that will be a “Parallel Army” to the Syrian army, the al-Hayat newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Iran operates Iraqi and Afghan militias in Syria in an attempt to protect the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Siraj Press, a media outlet that belongs to the Syrian opposition, reported that Iran has sent a special envoy to Syria to unify these militias.
The news site added that the new group will be similar to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and that it will fight alongside Hezbollah militants and Syrian regime forces. Iran’s decision was made at a time when the Syrian regime is finding it difficult to recruit new fighters for their services.
Syrian opposition sources said that Iran pays each fighter about $400 a month for joining militias and ensures the fighters obtain Syrian citizenship after a certain period of time, allowing them to bring their families to Syria.
Recruiting Shiite Iraqis and Afghans may be a part of an Iranian strategy to send poor foot soldiers to the Syrian civil war. The aim is probably to reduce casualties among Iranian Revolutionary Guards personnel, Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants, and Assad’s soldiers.
Iran is also reportedly providing the Syrian regime with drones. The Daily Beast reported this week that some of these drones “were inspired by American technology and they are already playing a significant role in keeping Bashar al-Assad in power.”
Iran sees the conflict in Syria as a critical battleground against the U.S. and Europe, and as an important arena for reshaping the Middle East and strengthening Iran’s role in the region as a key and influential actor. Iran is aiding its ally Assad in dealing with any protests as soon as they erupt, and advises him regularly.
[Photo: Freedom House / Flickr]