by Majid Rafizadeh
While the Obama administration has been struggling to articulate a precise foreign policy agenda towards Syria, another country, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and a non-state actor, Hezbollah, have become emboldened and empowered in their clear support for the Assad regime militarily, financially, through intelligence, and in an advisory role to garner a victory for Islam against those they call “the Pagans.”
It goes without saying that Iran— with the help of Hezbollah— has been operating militarily in the region for in recent years, supporting the Assad regime financially and sending military advisers to the country to train Syrian officers, Mukhabarat (the Syrian intelligence agency), and army ever since the popular uprising first began. For example, Iranian leaders have reportedly made the forceful military decision to send 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Damascus. This support is intended to threaten Tel Aviv, suppress the uprising and rebellion, as well as to strengthen Assad’s Alawite-based police state.
In addition, the Islamic Republic of Iran— with the help of Russia and China—signed an agreement with Assad to supply Damascus with $3.6 billion in oil in exchange for Tehran to have the right to invest in Syrian cities. Syria’s state news agency (SANA) reported on Tuesday that “[a]n agreement (on Monday) was signed in Tehran by the Iranian and Syrian central banks, granting Syria a credit line worth $3.6 billion.” The agreement stipulates that the Syrian government will have to pay back the cost of the Iranian oil loan ”through Iranian investments of various kinds in Syria,” as SANA stated. However, Syrian and Iranian authorities have not clarified what specific type of “investments” will be implemented.
This $3.6 billion in oil is part of a package to extend Iranian aid to President Bashar al-Assad’s government – Iran’s major regional political and strategic ally. In addition to the $3.6 billion aid in oil, another $1 billion credit line to Damascus has already been extended. Moreover, Iran has previously signed a free trade deal that granted Syrian exports as low as 4 percent in customs tariffs. These moves have been taken in an attempt to allow Syrian authorities to buy Iranian power-generating products and other goods in a framework of barter arrangements.
Although Iran has been implicitly and covertly delivering assistance to Assad and his apparatuses since the eruption of the Syrian uprising, there has been no concrete or tangible proof of these military, advisory and financial moves. Iranian leaders have continued to deny all these claims, maintaining the stance that they are not engaged with any side in Syria.
Nevertheless, all this changed, when just this week a cameraman— who lost his life because he filmed the truth on the ground in Syria— released the following video showing how Syrian troops and militia are being trained by Persian-speaking advisers. The cameraman was able to capture footage of the Iranians with their fighting unit, showing the ideology of the Islamist clerics of Iran.
The Iranian officer publicly announces that he is fighting Western countries, Tel Aviv, the United States, and pagans. Through the interview, it is evident that he is implying that the uprising in Syria did not erupt as a protest against the dictator, but as a battle between Islam and the bad, a battle between good and evil. The evil here being the West: Israel and the United States.
The war in Syria, he explained, “is that of Islam versus the nonbelievers. Good versus evil.”
The officer believes that he represents good, while his opponents are the evil, because he believes that he is on the side of God due to the fact that he is on the side of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khameini. The Iranian officer believes that he is with the right and the good, the Islamist party fighting evil and atheism because that is what the Supreme Leader has instructed.
There are many people who become brainwashed, blindly and truly believing in whatever their Imam and Supreme Leader has said. These are the types of people who will kill, slaughter, commit suicide, torture men, women, and children, while still believing that they are doing the right thing.
These believers act because their Supreme Leader and Imams not only support them in this world, but also promise them support in the next world, including (most infamously) 72 virgins.
When I lived in Iran, I came to realize that there is a specific group of militia, extremely loyal to the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Islamist value system. They believe that the twelfth Imam, called Mehdi, would one day resurrect and would come to kill all of the pagans on Earth with his sword while riding a horse, resulting in only a few (less than 1,000) loyal Islamists left alive from the billions alive today. The devout followers deeply believe that they will indeed be the few survivors because they support the Iranian leader Khamenei.
Those who believe in this to a fanatic extent become dangerous, as they would go to extreme lengths to please their Imam and Supreme Leader. Some would even argue that they would self-harm and self-sacrifice if the Imam ordered it, as a sign of loyalty and as supporters of what they see as true Islam.
While the Obama administration has yet to articulate a clear foreign policy goal for Syria, Iranian loyalists and Islamists, Hezbollah, and other groups are dominating the country, the region, and threatening the existence of Christians and Jewish minorities, Israelis, and other non-Muslim groups.
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