What price is the Iranian regime willing to pay to achieve its goals such as keeping the Assad regime firmly in power in Syria?
It has been willing to funnel billions of dollars in hard currency to keep Assad afloat.
It has been willing to order its Hezbollah proxy to send fighters there.
It has been willing to recruit Afghan refugees to fight as mercenaries, even threaten to deport their family members back to Afghanistan if they refused to fight in Syria.
It has been willing to send in its own Quds Force members and now even its regular army soldiers to fight and die and celebrate their martyrdom.
It has even been willing to recruit Russia to fight alongside its forces to target Western-backed rebels, including the deliberate targeting of civilians and relief agencies.
Now to top it all off, the Iranian regime has released a slick music video made by the Basij militia recruiting children to fight in Syria as well in a clear demonstration of how desperate the mullahs in Tehran have become to protect their partner in crime.
The lyrics, as translated by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a leading dissident group, say:
“On my leader [Ayatollah Khamenei’s] orders I am ready to give my life.
The goal is not just to free Iraq and Syria;
My path is through the sacred shrine [in Syria], but my goal is to reach Jerusalem.
… I don’t regret parting from my country;
In this just path I am wearing my martyrdom shroud.”
Michael J. Totten, writing in World Affairs Journal, explained the regime’s past history of using children for war.
“Iran’s regime has done this before. During the Iran-Iraq War, which killed around a million people between 1980 and 1988, the Basij recruited thousands of children to clear minefields.
“After lengthy cult-like brainwashing sessions, the poor kids placed plastic keys around their necks, symbolizing martyrs’ permission to enter paradise, and ran ahead of Iranian ground troops and tanks to remove Iraqi mines by detonating them with their feet and blowing their small bodies to pieces,” he writes.
The Iranian government desperately needs the Assad regime in Damascus and the Abadi government in Iraq because they’re Iran’s only allies in the entire Arab world. A moderate and democratic Iran would have no trouble forging normal and friendly relations with moderate Arabs governments like Jordan’s, Tunisia’s, Morocco’s and possibly even Egypt’s, but the revolutionary state that’s been entrenched there since 1979 isn’t tolerated any better in capitals like Cairo and Riyadh than it is in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, he added.
More than 280 Iranian troops have been killed in Syria since September of last year, according to an analysis by the Levantine Group of casualties reported by Iranian media.
The willingness to sustain such a heavy rate of losses is evidence of Tehran’s commitment to the Assad regime, but also seems to show that Iran is counting on its forces to stand in for what the Levantine Group describes as a “decomposing” regime army.
“Iranian operatives are not mere military advisers spread out along regime lines,” said geopolitical and security analyst Michael Horowitz.
The use of Afghan refugees as cannon fodder in Syria highlights the plight of these refugees who sought to escape violence in Afghanistan only to experience violence in Iran as shown by the brutal and ghastly rape and murder of a six-year old Afghan girl.
Her case could have disappeared in the Iranian regime’s court system — Afghan migrants, who number about two million, often face discrimination by the mullah’s judiciary and other institutions.
Instead, her death provoked a social media storm, with an online outpouring of grief and a show of solidarity with Afghan migrants. A vigil for the murdered child was organized via Telegram, a popular messaging app in Iran, and eventually the judiciary was forced to fast-track her case; finally succumbing to intense pressure to act in this particular case where so many others had been previously ignored.
There are other small slivers of hope as another successful social media campaign is helping a detainee of the notorious Evin Prison.
Omid Kokabee, an Iranian physicist associated with the University of Texas, has been in the jail since being arrested on charges of espionage in 2011. He is currently suffering from kidney cancer, and Iranians blame the regime for delaying treatment two years ago that could have helped prevent its spread.
A #freeomid Twitter campaign has prompted a response from Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, a hardline spokesman of the judiciary who has denied any failure on the part of the authorities but said the prisoner’s 10-year sentence could be reconsidered depending on his medical condition.
We can only hope that more social media campaigns can lead to activism and pressure to bring about a fundamental change to the Iranian regime, which is what the mullahs ruling Iran are fearing from. An overwhelming majority of young and discontent Iranians who have lived under the iron fist and are now using every opportunity to revolt against the ruling theocracy.
By Michael Tomlinson