Mohsen Shemirani, an Iranian scholar, and political analyst in Tehran, assessed that the reason for the significant jump is that the larger number encompasses all the deaths from the Iranian forces, including Afghans and Pakistanis fighting for them and terrorist groups like the Lebanese Hezbollah, as opposed to Iranian- citizens only.
Iran recruited Afghan and Pakistani refugees, mainly ethnic Shi’ite Hazaras, in exchange for citizenship for them and their families; they also sent their own terrorist force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), to fight alongside Hezbollah fighters for the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad.
Ali Alfoneh, a Washington-based international affairs expert and IRGC analyst, said: “Tehran allows authorities to grant citizenship to the families of Afghans and Pakistan nationals who are fighting in Syria against Sunni militants including the Islamic State.”
Alfoneh noted that even including noncitizen deaths, the number of 1,000 seemed excessive.
He said: “Iran’s losses peaked in February 2016, as 61 Iranian nationals were killed in the suburbs of Aleppo. By comparison, in the course of the past six months, Iran suffered minor losses — 18 in June, five in July, five in August, nine in September, six in October and six in November.”
Daryoush Bourbour, a retired Iranian special forces commander who lives in the United States, said: “The use of voluntary forces in war has always contributed to more casualties.”
Iran often claims that it is only in Syria to protect religious shrines, but the bodies of their fighters are often found a long way from the shrines and close to the actual war zone.
Originally silent about their involvement, Iran has been very public about their war dead through 2016. They want to rally the public behind the cause, but the majority of Iranians still despise the war.