U.S. Sanctions Two Iran-Backed Terror Groups Fighting for Assad in Syria
The U.S. Treasury Department added two Iran regime-backed militias fighting on behalf of the brutal Bashar al-Assad dictatorship in Syria to its terrorism watch list on Thursday.
These are the Fatemiyoun Division, composed of 10-20,000 Afghan nationals, and the Zaynabiyoun Brigade, consisting of an unknown number of Pakistani nationals. The majority of members of both groups are refugees and migrants residing in Iran – there are roughly 1 million registered and up to 2 million “undocumented" Afghan refugees in Iran - who were recruited by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), which is a US-designated terror group.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement: "The brutal Iranian regime exploits refugee communities in Iran, deprives them of access to basic services such as education, and uses them as human shields for the Syrian conflict. Treasury's targeting of Iran-backed militias and other foreign proxies is part of our ongoing pressure campaign to shut down the illicit networks the regime uses to export terrorism and unrest across the globe."
Human rights groups have reported that many of those “volunteering” to join the brigades and fight on the front lines in Daraa, Aleppo and Deir el-Zour are just trying to earn a living and gain legal status for their families in a country that does not have many opportunities for refugees. Human Rights Watch even revealed that many of the fighters are underage, with some in the Fatemiyoun Division as young as 14.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of "preying" on vulnerable refugees and using them as "cannon fodder" in Syria in a tweet on Thursday, in which he vowed to continue the US’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.
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