Iran has been recruiting thousands of Afghan refugees to fight in Syria, offering them $500 a month and Iranian residency, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing Afghans and Western officials.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) recruits and trains Shiite militias to fight in Syria. Details of their recruitment efforts were posted this week on a blog focused on Afghan refugees in Iran and confirmed by the office of Grand Ayatollah Mohaghegh Kabuli, an Afghan religious leader in the Iranian holy city of Qom.
A member of the IRGC also confirmed the details.
"They [IRGC] find a connection to the refugee community and work on convincing our youth to go and fight in Syria," the office administrator of Ayatollah Kabuli, reached by telephone in Qom, told The Wall Street Journal. "They give them everything from salary to residency." Tehran is also offering them school registration for their children and charity cards.
Many Afghan young men have written to Ayatollah Kabuli to ask whether fighting in Syria was religiously sanctioned, his office told the journal. He responded that it was only sanctioned if they were defending Shiite shrines. Lately, his office said he has kept silent and not even attended funerals of Afghans killed in Syria.
Reports of funerals for the Afghan recruits who die in Syria began to emerge in November. Recently, there have been more frequent reports of such deaths popping up in Iranian media.
Hamid Babaei, a spokesman for the UN mission to Iran, said allegations that Iran is sending Afghan refugees to Syria as fighters are unfounded.
"Iranian presence in the country is solely advisory in nature in order to help counter the extremist... Al-Qaeda groups from committing more massacre and bloodshed," he said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Throughout the civil war in Syria, Iran has been actively involved in fighting alongside President Bashar Al-Assad and his troops.
Iran has provided Assad with military support during his fight against the rebels, and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops.
A senior Revolutionary Guard commander recently made a revealing remark, saying Assad is "fighting this war (in Syria) as our deputy."
The comment, made by Brig. Gen. Hossein Hamedani, clearly implied that Iran is orchestrating what happens in Syria. Hamedani further said 130,000 Iranian fighters are "ready to be deployed" in Syria if the war rages on.
Hamedani's statements were reported by the Iranian state-controlled Fars news agency, but were quickly removed from the website. Naame Shaam, an independent news site opposing Assad's regime, later revealed the deleted report.
Last November, an Iranian parliamentarian confirmed Iran's military presence in Syria and even boasted that the Islamic Republic has “hundreds of battalions” fighting alongside troops loyal to Assad.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)