A website affiliated with the supporters of Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, posted a call to arms, inviting Iranians to volunteer and join the fighting currently underway in Syria.
In another article published by the same website, names and telephone numbers for those interested in volunteering were made available, allowing them to text or call for further information.
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Call to arms
This is a battalion of Shiite combatants from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, whose goal is to protect Syrian sites holy to Shiite Muslims. The group is named after one of the sons of Ali – the cousin and son-in-law of Islamic prophet Muhammad – and the founder of the Shiite religion.
The battalion has been active for a few months, and has been involved in fighting around the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque – the tomb of Ali's daughter – in a southern province of Damascus. According to the Shiite faith, Zaynab is buried in a mosque with a gold dome, surrounded by a white marble wall.
Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque
Before the civil war started, the mosque was a vibrant site, constantly frequented by Shiite pilgrims.
The brigade was formed in response to desecration of Shiite holy sites by Sunni fighters in Syria. A few months ago, during the battle of Idlib, a video was releaesed portraying Sunni rebels burning the Husayniyya mosque, a holy Shiite site. This is only one such example in a string of similar events.
The Sunni-Shiite conflict, which reaches way beyond the borders of Syria, is evident in the videos being uploaded on a daily basis and as part of the fighting in Syria.
Ali Khamenei (Photo: AP)
Meir Javedanfar, an expert in contemporary Iranian politics at the IDC Herzliya, told Ynet that "at face value, this is a very serious development because the call to join fighting comes from a site affiliated with Khamenei supporters."
However, he was quick to note that "it still remains unclear whether those answering the call are actually sent to Syria, as the Iranian regime is quite carful not to leave fingerprints."
Javedanfar added that "during Operation Pillar of Defense there were many fervent supports in the Iranian regime that volunteered to assist Gazans, but they were barred from leaving Iran. If Khamenei will continue his way in regards to the events in Syria he will be forced to send volunteers to battle Syrian opposition forces."
Abu Fadl Al-Abbas fighter
The Syrian conflict has attracted radical Sunni fighter from Afghanistan, Libya and Chechnya, most of whom consider the Shiites infidels and contend their holy sites to be un-Islamic, idolatry sites of worship that must be destroyed.
Damaged Shiite mosque
While the Shiites are an almost insignificant minority in Syria, some 2% of the Syrian population, they are a solid majority in Iran and Iraq, and as such are a dominant force in neighboring Lebanon – a country somewhat famous for its friendly relations with Syrian Shiites and Alawites.
Syria is home to no less then 50 Shiite holy sites, all of which are extremely important for both local and neighboring Shiites to protect. Therefore it is safe to assume that Hezbollah forces are somewhere to be found in the mix of this mission special mission.
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