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Middle East Aflame
Assad Broadens The Sectarian War

What the Middle East doesn’t need right now is a further generalization of the sectarian war. But that is exactly what an increasingly desperate Assad is doing:

Iran is offering thousands of dollars to Shia mercenaries from Afghanistan and Pakistan to join the fight to keep President Assad of Syria in power.

According to Shia community leaders in Kabul, the recruitment drive is co-ordinated by the Iranian embassy in the Afghan capital. It provides visas to “hundreds” of Shia men each month willing to fight in Syria. Online Urdu- language recruitment is also taking place in Pakistan, with fighters offered $3,000 each to join up.

Some analysts believe that as many as 5,000 Afghans and Pakistanis are now fighting for the Assad regime, bolstering government troops whose morale has been battered by a series of reverses since the start of the year. They have lost territory, in the process, to increasingly well-organised rebel units backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Iran is the main provider of arms, fighters and finance to the Assad regime.

This increase in mercenary support comes at a time when the Assad regime is thought to control only 20–30% Syria’s territory, and is considering a withdrawal from positions that are not vital to its survival.

Yet despite the worsening fortunes of Tehran’s longtime ally, Iran’s President Rouhani defiantly proclaimed today that “The Iranian nation and government will remain at the side of the Syrian nation and government until the end of the road.” In another show of support, Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani recently made a visit to Syria’s Latakia region, the heartland of the Assad regime. Soleimani subsequently reaffirmed Iran’s continuing commitment to the Syrian regime, announcing that “The world will be surprised by what we and the Syrian military leadership are preparing for the coming days.”

Chilling words today—and but a taste of what is likely to happen as Tehran finds extra revenue sloshing around its coffers if and when international sanctions are eased.

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  • GS

    “What the Middle East doesn’t need right now is a further generalization of the sectarian war.”
    – Absolutely, totally, entirely, and spectacularly wrong. It is exactly what the Middle East needs right now. And may they reciprocally akbar each other even to the uttermost.

    • JR

      This conflict has been going on for the past 1400 years. Since it has intensified recently, one can argue that this is exactly what the ME needs right now. After all, if Hizbullah fighting ISIS is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

  • longlance

    Go, Team Assad! Demolish US/Mossad-supported ISIL.

    • JR

      There there, sweetie, there there….

    • Ellen

      Actually, dear, Israel is probably supporting Nusra and the Southern Front at this moment, not ISIL. But don’t let that disturb your fantasies.

      • AaronL

        Definitely the Southern Front , i.e. the FSA (Free Syrian Army) by way of medical care to their injured-recently the FSA has stated that they hope to open an Embassy in Israel by next year. That will never happen but you get the drift. Israel probably helps with Al Nusra’s injured also.

  • Ellen

    Qassem Soleimani is going to look very foolish when his 30 year investment in Syria goes whoosh down the toilet bowl. Let him go on pouring money into Syria. This is a classic case of imperial stretch, and the results will be very gratifying to those of us on the other side of the barricade.

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