Iran is recruiting Afghan refugees to fight in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.
In exchange, Iran is offering them stipends of $500 a month and residency permits, the paper said, quoting Afghans and Western officials.
Details of their recruitment efforts were confirmed by the office of Grand Ayatollah Mohaghegh Kabuli, an Afghan religious leader in the Iranian holy city of Qom. A member of the IRGC also confirmed the details, reported the newspaper.
“They [IRGC] find a connection to the refugee community and work on convincing our youth to go and fight in Syria,” said the office administrator of Ayatollah Kabuli. “They give them everything from salary to residency.”
The paper reported that Iran is also offering the refugees school registration for their children.
The paper quoted a Western official in Iran as saying recruiting Afghans was part of a strategy to send poor foot soldiers to the battle front, Agence France-Presse reported.
The aim was to reduce casualties among Iranian Guards personnel and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, a close Tehran ally, the official said.
On Thursday, a funeral attended by local officials was held in the Iranian city of Mashhad, near the Afghan border, for four Afghan refugees killed in Syria, according to the newspaper.
However, Hamid Babaei, a spokesman for the U.N. mission to Iran, said the allegations were unfounded.
“Iranian presence in the country is solely advisory in nature in order to help counter the extremist... al-Qaeda groups from committing more massacre and bloodshed,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
Like Hezbollah and most Iranians, the Afghan recruits are Shiites and support Assad, whose Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, the Journal said.
Iran is also reportedly providing the Syrian regime with drones, the Daily Beast reported this week.
Some of these drones "were inspired by American technology and they're already playing a significant role in keeping Bashar Assad in power," the website reported.
Last week, Iran announced the replication of a U.S. drone that Tehran claimed it had captured in 2011.SHOW MORE