Insider news & Analysis in Iran

Foreign proxies were regularly used to fight battles during the Cold War. 

• In 2005, Poland’s Defense Minister, Radek Sikorski, exposed the Soviet Union’s classified war plans against NATO during the Cold War. The plans included using nuclear weapons against West Germany and sending Polish soldiers to march across the radioactive battlefields.

• Meanwhile, during the Cold War, Cuban soldiers fought in Angola and across Latin America. 

• Also during the Cold War, the Algeria-based Polisario Front forcibly took Sahwari children from their parents for re-education in Cuba, and eventual deployment in service of various liberation movements. 

In his article for Commentary Magazine, Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, cites these examples, and writes, “Such exploitation of whole countries as mercenary forces was a disgusting practice. It was one that should have ended with the fall of the Cold War.”

The Islamic Republic of Iran is seemingly using these strategies increasingly in Syria, where its support of Bashar al-Assad has cost the lives of several thousand Iranian soldiers and cadets

He says that Iran’s use of Hezbollah in Lebanon should have ended the belief that Hezbollah has become a Lebanese national organization. Instead, he says, Hezbollah remains a proxy for the Islamic Republic of Iran. “Hezbollah is not the only one. A couple of years ago, I noted the increasing number of funerals of foreign nationals—especially Afghans—occurring in Iran whom Iranian news sources said had died fighting in Syria.”

The mention of the Afghans has increased in recent weeks. Esmail Ghani, the deputy commander of the Qods Force, praised the entirely Afghan Shi’ite Fatimiyoun Brigade for its sacrifices in both Iraq and Syria on March 2. According to a translation from the American Enterprise Institute’s Iran team, Ghani said, “When the Fatimiyoun [Brigade] set foot in Syria, its streets were in America’s hands. Today… [the Fatimiyoun] have slapped America on the mouth. [America] would never have come to the negotiations if it weren’t for [The Fatimiyoun’s] strength on the field.” Following this, the Fatimiyoun Brigade announced the creation a dedicated mosque in Mashhad, which is Iran’s second-largest city, so that it could form its own Basij unit.

The Basij are a paramilitary and cultural organization that was formed to keep order in times of crisis. However, the Basij also recruits and indoctrinates, and are under the purview of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iranian leaders have said they seek a 100 million-strong Basij organization that will span national borders. And, “It seems this was not mere rhetoric but rather a roadmap to Iran’s future plans.”

Writer also calls Hezbollah “a force for instability”. As the Trump administration has now acquiesced to President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power in Syria, and underlines that, “It is time to recognize that such ‘stability’ comes at a price which makes the world decidedly less stable.”

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have implemented a strategy to radicalize not only Afghans, but are using Shi’ite mercenaries from Afghanistan, as well as Iraq and elsewhere, to take ‘export of revolution’ ever further.

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