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Iranian general admits ‘advising’ Syrian regime on establishing ‘shabbiha’ paramilitary force

Gholam_RashidA prominent Iranian general has admitted that Sepah Pasdaran played an important role in setting up a Syrian paramilitary militia known as the National Defence Frorces, which has terrorised Syrian dissidents and committed grave human rights abused since the start of the Syrian revolution in March 2011.

Brigadier-General Gholam Ali Rashid, the Deputy Head of the General Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, reiterated the Iranian regime’s line that “we are not fighting in Syria” but admitted “advising the commanders who formed the National Defence Force”, which he described as “organisationally similar to Basij”.

Basij, officially known as the ‘Organisation for Mobilisation of the Oppressed’, is an Iranian paramilitary militia established by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 and is often used by the regime to terrorise and suppress dissident movements in Iran.

The National Defence Forces, which are commonly referred to by Syrians as ‘shabbiha’ (or regime thugs), were set up, armed and financed by the Syrian president’s brother Maher al-Assad and his cousin Rami Makhlouf in mid-2011, with the aim of doing the regime’s “dirty work” to counter the mass anti-regime protests. (See this important Telegraph article about the militia’s history:

Over the past three years, the ‘shabiha’ have reigned with violence and impunity, setting fire to homes or looting them, destroying entire villages, raping, torturing and slitting the throats of inhabitants suspected of opposing the regime. They are often charged with finding, killing or torturing anti-regime protesters and activists. They now have their own detention centres and torture facilities throughout the country. Their presence and checkpoints are feared by Syrians much more than those of the army due to their infamous brutality.

Brigadier-General Rashid’s admission came during a speech in Dezful, Khuzestan at an official commemoration of the city’s liberation from Iraqi forces in 1982. In his speech, reported by the Dezful Emrooz news website (, he also warned that, “if al-Assad falls, then it will be the turn of Lebanon and Hezbollah and later Iraq.” And that is why Iran is “helping the Syrian Baath Party”, whose “only crime”, he claimed, was “resistance” [against Israel and the US].

Needless to say, there are now swaths of evidence that Iranian nationals have been fighting and being killed on Syrian soil. Here are just a few examples:
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