Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Shiite Combat Casualties Show the Depth of Iran's Involvement in Syria

'According to open-source data collected from Persian-language accounts of funerals in Iran, 113 Iranian nationals, 121 Afghan nationals, and 20 Pakistani nationals -- all Shiites -- have been killed in combat in Syria since January 2013. (The formidable number of Iraqi and Lebanese Shiite casualties are not included in this survey; for more on that subject, see "Hezbollah's Victory in Qalamoun: Winning the Battle, Losing the War"*  and "Iraqi Shiite Foreign Fighters on the Rise Again in Syria.")
 To further complicate matters, the place of death for most of them is listed as "Syria" or "the shrine in Damascus," which is meant to back up the fiction that they were martyred while defending Shiite pilgrimage sites rather than, for example, fighting in Aleppo far to the north.
 The Qods Force and its Afghan/Pakistani recruits are spread thin and suffering significant casualties, spurring the deployment of the IRGC Ground Forces to Syria. Even so, Iran is unlikely to abandon its commitment to its proxy regime in Damascus in the short term. The Islamic Republic in general, and the IRGC in particular, have invested so much blood and treasure in the war that they no longer believe they can withdraw their support.'

 * "Given what is at stake in Syria -- the fall of Assad would dramatically complicate Hezbollah's supply lines from its Iranian patrons -- the militia is all in. If the past four years are any indication, the group will continue to hold its own against Sunni rebels along the border and serve as Assad's crack force in strategically important areas. As the war drags on, however, Hezbollah's operational stresses and limitations will become ever more apparent. Bolstered by Tehran and Nasrallah, Assad could hang on for some time, but even his most reliable Shiite allies may not be able to sustain him as the war's attrition increasingly highlights his demographic disadvantage. For better or worse, the only factor that may forestall his seemingly inevitable fall is the estimated $60 billion in sanctions relief that Iran stands to gain after a nuclear deal is inked."

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