July 23, 2018

Shia Foreign Fighters in Syria

An Iraqi Shia fighter patrols in the town of Hejeira in the countryside of Damascus, Syria, Nov. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Jaber al-Helo)
An Iraqi Shia fighter patrols in the town of Hejeira in the countryside of Damascus, Syria, Nov. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Jaber al-Helo)

This series examines the role of Iranian-backed Shia foreign fighters in Syria and their potential impact on regional security dynamics.


Four Decades in the Making: Shia Afghan Fatemiyoun Division of the Revolutionary Guards

By Ali Alfoneh

As Washington is preparing the ground for direct talks with the Taliban to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan and perhaps reduce the U.S. military presence there, it must brace itself for the potential risk of regional powers increasing their presence to fill the power vacuum. One of those regional powers, Iran, has provided support to Shia and Sunni Afghan militants for four decades, which offers some insights into Tehran’s long-range strategy.
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Using Syria as a Training Ground: The Case of the Pakistani Zeinabiyoun Brigade

By Ali Alfoneh

The rapid advances of the Syrian army in Deraa province in recent weeks, coupled with unclear prospects for U.S. military support to the opposition, appear to have sealed the fate of the rebel factions in southwest Syria. The opposition, however, continues to impose heavy losses on the Syrian government forces and their allies: According to the London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the regime forces and their allies suffered 117 fatalities between June 30 and July 1. This would be a considerable loss, had the Syrian army shouldered it alone. However, thanks to the Assad regime’s burden sharing arrangement with foreign Shia fighters, such losses are tolerable.
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