However, while this is going on, Iran is able to get away with deploying proxy armies (as well as its own fighters) to Syria to keep Bashar al Assad in power. Iran is getting its manpower from the Shiite Muslim populations.
Iran has only sent a small number of its own operational force to Syria so that the country only has a limited involvement. Most of those sent are advisers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) who will train recruits, gather intelligence and manage the logistics rather than being on the front line.
The IRGC are in charge of providing the manpower to Syria. Some of the entities recruited are the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Yemeni Houthis, the Pakistani “Zainebiyoun Brigade”, the Afghan “Fatimiyoun” and “Khadem el-Aqila” brigades and several Iraqi Shiite militias. They are paid by Iran, their equipment is provided by Iran, they are trained by Iran and they take their orders from Iran.
Hezbollah, despite receiving much criticism about its cooperation in battles against Sunni rebel movements, has not been challenged by any political force in Lebanon. This strength has been very useful and attractive to Iran.
The Afghan forces fighting in Syria on behalf of Iran are arguably the most exploited. The “Fatimiyoun Brigade” is composed of 3,500 Afghani refugees that were living in Iran. The Iranian authorities took advantage of the desperate economic and political situation of the refugees who had spent a lot of money to get into Iran.
Iran was an attractive place for the Afghans. As well as leaving behind the war at home, they could earn a lot more in Iran. However, illegally living in Iran was a dangerous choice for Afghans too. The Iranian authorities (who have a very poor human rights record towards its own people) often mistreat the refugees. Many are jailed. Despite this, they continue to flock to the Islamic Republic in large numbers and Iranian authorities found a way to send a great deal of manpower to Syria without diminishing its own forces.
Iran gave the Afghan volunteers a residency permit and several hundred dollars salary per month. Therefore, any deaths were no burden to Iran, but most importantly to Iran it could deny involvement in Syria.
Unlike the jihadist movements in the West, Iran is being allowed to carry out some of the worst atrocities in the Middle East unnoticed. Despite Iran’s denial of its extensive involvement in Syria, it is clear for the international community to see and action needs to be taken.