Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reports of Iranians Fighting in Syria

Reports of Iranians fighting in Syria heated up this week. First, on April 2, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that members of the National Defense Forces, a pro-regime paramilitary group, claimed that “Iranian combatants have been taking part in the Syrian conflict since approximately a month.” The members of the National Defense Forces claimed to have received training in Iran, then returned to Syria with Iranian fighters who were given Syrian I.D.s.

On April 3, Muhanad Issa, leader of the Shuhada Idlib Brigade, gave an interview on Orient TV on clashes near Idlib Province’s Shia villages of Fua and Kafaraya. In the interview, Issa claimed that his men were facing Iranian fighters. A post then appeared on Shuhada Idlib’s Facebook page in which the brigade claimed to have killed one Iranian and captured another during clashes near the Shiite villages.  In February, Ben Hubbard reported that a spate of kidnappings have been escalating between the Shia villages of Fua and Kafaraya on one side and surrounding Sunni villages such as Binnish on the other.

Muhanad Issa (left) holding the identification papers of his
Iranian hostage (right)
Later on April 3, Orient TV posted an interview between Issa and the captured Iranian. In the video, the Iranian, speaking in broken Arabic, claimed to have been in Syria for five months in order to train pro-regime fighters. 

The Shuhada Idlib Brigade clearly believes that it has captured an Iranian fighter. Given the individual's age and presence in an intense war zone, I am inclined to believe Shuahada Idlib’s claims, although it should be noted that they do not match up with the report from the National Defense Forces. Shuhada Idlib’s Iranian captive claims to have been in Syria for five months not one, and in the video Issa displays the captive’s Iranian papers. It is possible, however, that small groups of Iranian fighters have been sent to different locations at different times.

1) Maarat Misrin
2) Kafarya
3) Fua
4) Binnish
5) Taftanaz
6) Idlib City
Screen Shot of Iranian Identification papers from the interview
between Issa and the Iranian Captive