Abstract: Shi`a Iran has been steadily recruiting, training, and equipping Shi`a foreign fighters from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and their capabilities are growing. Shi`a foreign fighters have participated in conflicts throughout the region, including in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. There is evidence the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is providing the training to transform these fighters into a professional transnational militia proxy force modeled after Lebanese Hezbollah. The formalization and expansion of these networks risks exacerbating geopolitical and sectarian tensions throughout the region.

The wars in Syria and Iraq have given Iran the opportunity to formalize and expand networks of Shi`a foreign fighters throughout the region. Units of Shi`a militants from Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq are undergoing a transformation into a “Hezbollah”-style organization that is loyal to Iran and willing to fight alongside Iranian troops and advisers. Meanwhile, Afghan and Pakistani Khomeinist networks have been reformed to supply thousands of fighters who can be used as shock troops on battlefields stretching from the Middle East to South Asia. The program is allegedly overseen by Qaseem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF).1

The Shi`a foreign fighter network is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, to fully comprehend the situation today, it is critical to understand Iran’s links to the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, which date back to the early 1980s. Iran has been described as the “principal moving force” behind the group’s creation.2 In its nascent stages, Hezbollah was little more than an inchoate collection of Shi`a militants who had broken off from similar organizations like AMAL and the Da’wa party.3 Following Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, 1,500 members of the al-Quds (Jerusalem) Force of the IRGC were redeployed from the Iran-Iraq battlefield to the eastern Bekaa region, mostly in Brital, Nabisheet, and Ba’albek, to provide materiel support and train Shi`a militias in areas of recruitment, ideological inculcation, and military training.4 Some scholars have gone so far as to label Hezbollah “an equal partner rather than a proxy” of Iran.5

The instruction provided by the IRGC also included how to conduct effective reconnaissance, gather intelligence, and deploy suicide-bombing tactics. The training provided to Hezbollah by the IRGC not only drastically improved the group’s operational capacity, but it also provided Hezbollah with the expertise to train other terrorist groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This ‘train-the-trainer’ model is on display today in Syria, where Hezbollah has worked with the IRGC to train Shi`a foreign fighters in a range of guerrilla tactics and asymmetric warfare techniques.6 Prized recruits are selected for more rigorous training in an effort to produce highly elite, specialized hybrid units capable of fighting both state and non-state actors.7

An Expanding Network
Hezbollah remains at the center of Iran’s Shi`a foreign fighter network. Although it has been one of the most effective fighting forces on the ground in Syria, it has suffered significant casualties.8 Still, Hezbollah has worked to recruit a significant number of fighters from within Syria9 and has played a vital combat role in Syria, helping the Assad regime reclaim territory while defending key villages and cities.10

But other nodes are being developed, aided by the Syrian civil war, which has served as a veritable testing ground for these emerging groups. Several prominent Iraqi foreign fighter groups have played a significant role in Syria, but are subject to the ebb and flow of the conflict across the border in Iraq. Now that the Islamic State has lost large swaths of its territory and Mosul has been recaptured, Iraqi Shi`a militia leaders are in a position to send fighters to Syria to assist the Assad regime.

Despite signs that there were splits within the leadership elements of some Iraqi Shi`a militia groups, these groups have expanded and continue to cooperate within the network. This was especially the case during the conflict in Syria. In early 2013, the Iraqi Shi`a militia Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (the Master of Martyrs Brigade) splintered from Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH),11 and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (the Hezbollah Movement of the Outstanding) split from Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH).12 However, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and KH assisted the new groups and fought alongside both to help defend the Assad regime.13

In Syria, the Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA) was the Assad regime’s first major attempt to create its own Shi`a militia, largely based on the Hezbollah model and received assistance from the Lebanese group.14 Other primarily Syrian Shi`a groups, such as Quwat al-Imam al-Baqir (the Imam Baqir Forces), were also formed with the assistance of Hezbollah, built on that model, and have fought alongside Iranian-backed Shi`a groups.15

The Badr Organization’s Quwet al-Shahid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, a moniker the group used between 2013 through 2015 for its expeditionary units headed to Syria, consisted of Iraqi Shi`a and deployed throughout Syria in varying capacities.16 Groups like Badr also helped to train Syrian Shi`a militias, transforming them into mobile rapid response units, modeled on smaller versions of Lebanese Hezbollah.17

The conflict in Syria forced the Assad regime to look beyond Shi`a within the immediate region and turn to aspiring fighters from South Asia. Iranian linkages to Afghan refugees, especially the thousands of Afghans living as refugees in Iran, facilitated their recruitment. As the conflict in Syria assumed a more sectarian tone, the willingness of Assad and his allies to expand the aperture of potential fighters extended to both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Besides Lebanese and Iraqis, there are also substantial numbers of Shi`a foreign fighters engaged in the Syria conflict from South Asia, mainly Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Afghan fighters belong to Liwa Fatemiyoun, and according to official Iranian sources, they number between 10,000-12,000 fighters,18 with some seeing major combat action in Aleppo, Deraa, Damascus, Latakia, and the Qalamoun region. Some reports indicate that hundreds of Afghan Shi`a, many of them Hazaras, have died fighting in Syria.19 These fighters are motivated by a combination of money and radicalism, with some recruited by the sectarian pitch to protect holy Shi`a shrines in Syria.20 Some reports suggest that Afghan Shi`a are being recruited from refugee camps in Iran, while in other cases the vetting process is less than scrupulous and allows for criminals, considered expendable by the Assad regime, to be deployed to the frontlines to fight and die.21

Information from Syria indicates that Pakistani Shi`a foreign fighters are now fighting in their own distinct unit in Syria—the Liwa Zaynabiyoun—instead of being integrated with other units, as they were early on in the conflict.22 Beginning in 2013, Pakistani Shi`a from the Turi tribe of the Kurram tribal region and ethnic Hazaras from Quetta traveled to Syria in large numbers.23 Urdu-language websites and social media pages have been used by Liwa Fatemiyoun and Liwa Zaynabiyoun to recruit Pakistani Shi`a to join the growing network of foreign fighters in Syria in order to defend their co-religionists against onslaught from the Islamic State and other hostile actors.a

Battle Tested
From battlefields spanning the marshlands separating Iran and Iraq to the hills of southern Lebanon, throughout their three-decade long history, Iranian-controlled proxy units have been improving their asymmetric and more recently, conventional battle tactics.

In Lebanon, it was through asymmetric warfare that Hezbollah first made an impact. From the early 1980s until the Israeli pullout from south Lebanon in 2000, the group often targeted with deadly effect Israeli forces and their local proxy militia, the South Lebanon Army (SLA). Prior to Hezbollah’s official 1985 declaration of existence, the group was linked to a massive car bomb that leveled an Israeli military and intelligence headquarters in Tyre.24 Other attacks included roadside bombings, the assassination of the second most senior SLA commander, and rocket attacks.25 There were also, however, many failures. As Eitan Azani has noted, in the mid-1980s Hezbollah suffered “a series of humiliating defeats in attacking IDF posts … during which dozens of the movement’s activists became casualties.”26 Nevertheless, the group quickly bounced back, learning from its errors and establishing new strategies.27

The situation was similar in Iraq. From the mid-1980s and 1990s, Iraqi Shi`a, dissidents captured Iraqi Shi`a who had been conscripted into Saddam Hussein’s army in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, and other smaller groups of Iraqi Shi`a insurgents sponsored by Tehran were placed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and allied clerics under the umbrella of the Badr Corps.b Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the group established developed significant capabilities and experience in asymmetric warfare as it carried out attacks against the forces of Saddam Hussein’s security forces.28

During the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel War and the U.S. and coalition occupation of Iraq (2003-2011), it became clear that Iranian-controlled Shi`a militia groups had reached a new level of capability in asymmetric conflict. Lebanese Hezbollah used such tactics to initiate the conflict with Israel and defend against the Israeli counterattack. The group also gained access to more advanced weapons. On July 14, 2006, Hezbollah militants launched an advanced surface-to-surface missile (SSM) at the INS Hanit, an Israeli naval vessel, heavily damaging it and causing four deaths.29 This know-how, along with Iranian-supplied ballistic missiles, anti-ship missiles, and sea mines, was reportedly transferred to Yemen’s Houthis (Ansar Allah), which launched anti-ship missiles at U.S. and Saudi-led coalition vessels in October 2016.30

Iran’s Iraqi proxies conducted a number of attacks against U.S. troops during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, with organizations like Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) using advanced weapons.31 Explosively formed penetrator (EFP) forms of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), first employed by Hezbollah against the Israel Defense Forces, were modified and heavily employed against U.S. and coalition forces by the group.32 Kata’ib Hezbollah also used numerous types of short-range rocket munitions. In 2008, for example, a rocket attack launched by the group killed two United Nations workers.33 The group’s so-called “Ashtar” improvised rocket-assisted munition (IRAM) was also used against U.S. and coalition forces.34 Newer variants developed by the group have increased range and have been used against Sunni rebel groups in Syria and the Islamic State in Iraq.35 In combating the Islamic State, KH Shi`a militias operating in Iraq will presumably have developed capabilities in discovering and dismantling IEDs targeting their forces.

While groups like Lebanese Hezbollah learned how to fight a modern, well-equipped army and retained asymmetric tactics, the war in Syria and other regional sectarian conflicts provided a learning curve toward enhancing conventional capabilities. Unlike earlier experiences in Lebanon and Iraq, the Syrian conflict has provided these groups with experience in combined arms warfare and a large battle space to integrate its multi-national units. Hezbollah and its other Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi`a militia allies have also relied on the deployment of larger-sized units and have improved the ability of these units to effectively utilize air and mechanized support.c

Iran’s Shi`a proxies growth in conventional capability and expertise is reflected in its propaganda. In numerous propaganda posts, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq’s (AAH) Syrian expeditionary unit and front, Liwa Kafil Zaynab (the Brigade of the Custodians of Zaynab), deployed its fighters alongside armored vehicles, including tanks. Since the first announcement of AAH under this moniker, AAH propaganda has shown its fighters working in concert with Assad’s forces.36 d

The introduction of advanced UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) technology has been another facet of expanding Hezbollah’s capabilities, although the group has primarily used drones for surveillance and reconnaissance. In 2012, Hezbollah launched an advanced drone into Israel and has already demonstrated an ability to hack Israeli drones.37 The expertise, reportedly developed with the direct assistance of the IRGC-QF, was expanded and used by Iraqi clones of Hezbollah, such as KH.38 In 2009, Kataib Hezbollah hacked U.S. drones by exploiting an unprotected communications link in some of the UAV systems to intercept the feed and download data in near real-time. KH was able to do this by utilizing SkyGrabber, a Russian software system originally designed to pirate satellite television.39

As these multinational groups continue to fight side by side, gain knowledge and experience in asymmetric and conventional tactics, and receive training on increasingly sophisticated equipment, the potency of Iran’s Shi`a militia proxies will only increase and further serve as an extension of Iranian foreign and security policy.40

A photo taken on August 2, 2017, during a tour guided by the Lebanese Hezbollah group shows a fighter flying the group’s flag in the vicinity of the Syrian town of Flita near the border with Lebanon. (Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran Ascendant
The formalization and expansion of the Shi`a foreign fighter units is just one piece of Iran’s multi-pronged strategy for regional hegemony in the Middle East. To achieve this, Iran apparently seeks to prevail against Saudi Arabia, consolidate its status as vanguard of the Shi`a, and perhaps most importantly, successfully force the retreat of U.S. forces from the region. This is especially true of Iran’s neighbors Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Iranians have worked for years to undermine U.S. policy and expand their own interests.41

The Iranian threat network is global and includes not only its nuclear weapons potential, but also cyber and maritime capabilities and its use of the IRGC-QF to spread its influence in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.42 Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, Iran has grown closer to Russia, while also seeking rapprochement with groups it once clashed with, including the Afghan Taliban and Hamas, highly capable non-state actors locked in conflict with the United States and Israel, respectively.43

Iran has successfully used its intensifying rivalry with Saudi Arabia and the threat of the Islamic State to strengthen its position and cement sectarian support. Following the Islamic State attack on the tomb of the Ayatollah Khomeini and its parliament in early June 2017, some IRGC officials predictably blamed Saudi Arabia and the United States for somehow being involved.44 That those claims are preposterous is irrelevant. The message plays well with the scores of young Shi`a men looking to join Iran’s ever-growing cadre of foreign fighters enlisted to defend their faith.

Shi`a foreign fighters are already deployed in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen and could be used elsewhere to defend Iranian interests under the auspices of protecting Shi`a from Sunni repression. This includes in countries where the United States retains vested interests, such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.45 This network could also help Iran establish a greater presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.46 As Ari Heistein and James West argued in The National Interest, “When these battle-hardened foreign fighters return home after being trained and indoctrinated by Iran and having built a network of likeminded people, it is no stretch to believe that they could serve as transnational networks to advance longstanding Iranian ambitions in South Asia.”47

Well-trained and resourced, Iranian-directed Shi`a foreign fighters pose a significant potential threat to U.S. interests. Both Lebanese Hezbollah and Kata’ib Hezbollah are designated terrorist groups that have historically targeted Americans and American interests, to great effect, as evidenced by the high numbers of American soldiers killed by each of these groups and continued anti-American propaganda efforts.48 e The more robust this network grows, the more opportunities it will have to expand abroad, as it appeared to have done most recently by gaining a toehold in Nigeria.49 Again, the model is Lebanese Hezbollah. After three decades, it now boasts a truly global presence with strong nodes in places like Latin America, West Africa, and even parts of Europe and North America.50

In 2004, Jordan’s King Abdullah II spoke of a growing expansion of Shi`a influence stretching from the Gulf of Aden to the Mediterranean becoming more of a reality with each passing year.51 The Iranians have gone “all in” on Syria, expending vast amounts of blood and treasure, not to mention domestic political capital, in propping up Assad’s regime, one of its few remaining allies in the region.52

Because Tehran’s influence is so ingrained in certain parts of the Middle East, completely usurping Iranian power is unrealistic. As the Islamic State is further weakened in Syria, the United States is rightly concerned that IRGC forces and their affiliates may very well fill the power vacuum left behind. These fears are palpable in Kirkuk, following clashes between Iraqi government forces and Kurdish fighters in that city in mid-October.53 Shi`a militias also went into Kirkuk during this time period.54 In areas of Syria where the Islamic State has withdrawn, the United States and its allies have been competing with Assad regime and its allies, namely Iran and Russia, to secure these newly liberate territories. The United States is worried that Iran is attempting to establish a land bridge from Tehran to Damascus, through Iraq.55

There are strong grounds to push back, with force if necessary, against encroachment by Shi`a foreign fighters, as the United States did in southeast Syria in early June, when U.S. forces struck Iranian-backed militias on multiple occasions near al-Tanf.56 But kinetic force can only be one piece of a more comprehensive U.S. strategy, which includes aggressive efforts at diplomacy. The Syrian civil war is, in many ways, the impetus behind the growth of Iran’s transnational Shi`a foreign fighter network. If the United States and the international community can help foster a negotiated political settlement in Syria, this will attenuate Iran’s ability to act with impunity and curtail its efforts to project power within the region through its use of proxy forces and foreign fighters.     CTC

Colin P. Clarke is a political scientist at the RAND Corporation where his research focuses on transnational terrorism, insurgency, and criminal networks. He is also an associate fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT)-The Hague. Follow @ColinPClarke

Phillip Smyth is an adjunct fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who focuses on Shi`a militia groups. Follow @PhillipSmyth

Substantive Notes
[a] Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were both used extensively to recruit Pakistani Shi`a fighters. See Phillip Smyth, “The Shiite Jihad In Syria and Its Regional Effects,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Focus 138 (2015), particularly Appendix 8.

[b] The Badr Corps was initially part of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). In 2011, when SCIRI became the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the Badr Corps split from the party and established itself as the Badr Organization. See also “The 35th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Victorious Badr Organization. Badr: 35 Years of Giving and Jihad,” Al-Ghadeer TV; Afshon Ostovar, Vanguard of the Imam: Religion, Politics, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), p. 111.

[c] Semi-official Iranian media has promoted these new abilities by showcasing Russian air support offered to some of these groups. See “Russian Air Force Supporting Syrian, Hezbollah Forces in Anti-ISIL Operation toward Deir Ezzur,” Fars News Agency, June 14, 2017.

[d] It is important to note that Hezbollah’s Ali Musa Daqduq was sent to Iraq to aid in the creation and development of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq. See Liz Sly and Peter Finn, “U.S. hands over Hezbollah prisoner to Iraq,” Washington Post, December 16, 2011.

[e] According to declassified Pentagon documents, 196 U.S. troops were killed and 861 were wounded by explosively formed penetrators. See “OIF EFP Detonations by Month 1,534 EFP Events Total.” The explosively formed penetrator has reportedly returned to Iraq. Kareem Fahim and Liz Sly, “Lethal roadside bomb that killed scores of U.S. troops reappears in Iraq,” Washington Post, October 12, 2017. In terms of propaganda, Badr, Harakat Hizballah al-Nujaba, and Kata’ib Hizballah have all claimed that U.S. aircraft have supplied the Islamic State and have threatened to shoot them down. See Phillip Smyth, “The Big Picture Behind Kata’ib Hizballah’s Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) Threats,” Jihadology, March 20, 2015. Kata’ib Hizballah has also threatened U.S. advisers in Iraq. See “Hezbollah Brigades: The Opposition Factions will Remain as Long as There is a Threat to the Country’s Security,” Al-Ebaa TV, October 24, 2017.

[1] Borzou Daraghi, “Inside Iran’s Mission To Dominate the Middle East,” Buzzfeed, July 30, 2017.

[2] Kenneth M. Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America (New York: Random House, 2004), p. 201.

[3] Frederic Wehrey, David E. Thaler, Nora Bensahel, Kim Cragin, Jerrold D. Green, Dalia Dassa Kaye, Nadia Oweidat, and Jennifer Li, Dangerous but not Omnipotent: Exploring the Reach and Limitations of Iranian Power in the Middle East (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2009), p. 88.

[4] Magnus Ranstorp, “The Hezbollah Training Camps of Lebanon,” in James JF Forest, The Making of a Terrorist, Volume II: Training (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006), p. 244. See also Wehrey et al.

[5] Walter Posch, “Ideology and Strategy in the Middle East: The Case of Iran,” Survival 59:5 (2017): p. 85.

[6] Nour Samaha, “Hezbollah’s Crucible of War,” Foreign Policy, July 17, 2016. See also Nadav Pollack, “The Transformation of Hezbollah by Its Involvement in Syria,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Research Notes 35 (2016) and “Hizbollah’s Syria Conundrum,” International Crisis Group, Middle East Report 175 (2017).

[7] Daraghi.

[8] Colin P. Clarke and Chad C. Serena, “Hezbollah is Winning the War in Syria,” National Interest, January 29, 2017.

[9] “Hezbollah Steps Up Recruitment in Syria,” Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2014. See also Ruth Sherlock, “Syria: Hezbollah Recruitment Surge as Sectarian Conflict Spreads,” Telegraph, March 2, 2014.

[10] Phillip Smyth, “Assad Strikes Back,” Foreign Policy, May 27, 2015. See also Ben Hubbard, “Iran Out to Remake Mideast With Arab Enforcer: Hezbollah,” New York Times, August 27, 2017.

[11] “The Defection of the Secretary General of Hezbollah Iraq and the Formation of ‘Sayyid al-Shuhada,” Al-Masala, March 10, 2016.

[12] “‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq’ is hosted by Nasrallah … So, Who is this Group?” Lubnan 24, January 22, 2016.

[13] Phillip Smyth, “All the Ayatollah’s Men,” Foreign Policy, September 18, 2014. See also Babak Denghanpiseh, “The Iraqi Militia Helping Iran Carve a Road to Damascus,” Reuters, September 22, 2017.

[14] Mariam Karouny, “Shi’ite fighters rally to defend Damascus shrine,” Reuters, March 3, 2013; Suadad al-Salhy, “Iraqi Shi’ites flock to Assad’s side as sectarian split widens,” Reuters, June 19, 2013.

[15] Walid Abu al-Kheir, “A Previous Regime-Opposition Fighter Joins the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the Syrian Desert,” July 31, 2017.

[16] Phillip Smyth, “Iraqi Shiite Foreign Fighters on the Rise Again in Syria,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 2430 (2015).

[17] Phillip Smyth, “How Iran is Building Its Syrian Hezbollah,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 2580 (2016).

[18] Saeed Kamali Dehghan, “Afghan refugees in Iran being sent to fight and die for Assad in Syria,” Guardian, November 5, 2015. “Pedar Fatemiyoun,” Tasnim News, August 23, 2017. Tasnim claimed that Liwa Fatemiyoun’s numbers are “in the thousands.”

[19] Christoph Reuter, “Murad’s War: An Afghan Face to the Syrian Conflict,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, June 26, 2015. See also Saeed Kamali Dehghan, “Afghan Refugees in Iran Being Sent to Fight and Die for Assad in Syria,” Guardian, November 5, 2015; “Iran Coerces Afghans to Fight in Syria, Says Report,” France 24, January 29, 2016; Kareem Fahim, “Afghans Go to Syria to Fight for Its Government, and Anguish Results,” New York Times, July 28, 2016; and Nada Homsi, “Afghan Teenagers recruited in Iran to fight in Syria, Group Says,” New York Times, October 1, 2017.

[20] Farnaz Fassihi, “Iran Pays Afghans to Fight for Assad,” Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2014.

[21] Christoph Reuter, “The Afghans Fighting Assad’s War,” Der Spiegel, May 11, 2015. See also Ali M. Latifi, “How Iran Recruited Afghan Refugees to Fight Assad’s War,” New York Times, June 30, 2017.

[22] Heistein and West, “Syria’s Other Foreign Fighters,” National Interest, November 20, 2015.

[23] Shazheb Ali Rathore, “The Saudi-Iran Factor in Pakistan’s Sunni-Shia Conflict,” The Middle East Institute, May 30, 2017.

[24] David Hirst, Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East (New York: Nation Books, 2010), p. 196; “Israeli Quarters in Lebanon Hit by ‘Huge’ Blast,” New York Times, November 4, 1983.

[25] “Bomb in Lebanon Kills No. 2 Officer of Israeli-Allied Militia,” Associated Press, January 31, 2000; Barton Gellman and John Lancaster, “The Undoing of Israel’s Security Zone,’” Washington Post, April 21, 1996.

[26] Eitan Azani, Hezbollah: The Story of the Party of God: From Revolution to Institutionalization (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), p. 68.

[27] Ibid., pp. 69-71.

[28] Hamid al-Bayati, From Dictatorship to Democracy: An Insider’s Account of the Iraqi Opposition to Saddam (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), p. 64.

[29] Nicholas Blanford, Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel (New York: Random House, 2011), pp. 381-382. Blanford claims Hezbollah used Iranian-made anti-ship missiles whereas The New York Times has claimed the missile used was a Chinese-made C-802. See Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker, “Arming of Hezbollah Reveals U.S. and Israeli Blind Spots,” New York Times, July 19, 2006.

[30] Amir Toumaj, “Yemeni Houthis Fire at Ship with Iranian-Supplied Missile,” Long War Journal, October 5, 2016. See also Eric Schmitt, “Iran is Smuggling Increasingly Potent Weapons Into Yemen, U.S. Admiral Says,” New York Times, September 18, 2017.

[31] Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra, “Shi`a Sources: Hezbollah Helping Iraqi Militia,” Associated Press, July 1, 2008. KH is an Iraqi Shiite group supported by Iran and part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces.

[32] John Ismay, “The Most Lethal Weapon Americans Faced in Iraq,” New York Times, October 18, 2013.

[33] “Kataib Hezbollah,” Stanford University Project on Mapping Militant Groups, last updated August 25, 2016.

[34] “Qasaf qa’ida Amrikiyya busawarikh al‐Ashtar,” YouTube, posted by Omar Almaleki, February 17, 2013; “Kataib Hezbollah anashuda ‘Ashtar,’” YouTube, posted by nasserk nasser, March 7, 2012.

[35] Brown Moses, “Volcanoes In Damascus: Was Hezbollah Involved With Developing Chemical Munitions?” Syria Deeply, November 28, 2013.

[36] Ali Abu Salah, “Syrian Army Sends Troops Toward Iraqi Border to Link with Shi`a Militias,” Reuters, May 15, 2017.

[37] “Hezbollah Admits Launching Drone Over Israel,” BBC News, October 11, 2012. See also Yaakov Katz, “IDF Encrypting More Drones Amid Hacking Concerns,” Jerusalem Post, June 12, 2012.

[38] Michael R. Gordon and Andrew W. Lehren, “Leaked Reports Detail Iran’s Aid for Iraqi Militias,” New York Times, October 22, 2010.

[39] Don Rassler, “Drone, Counter Drone: Observations on the Contest Between the United States and Jihadis,” CTC Sentinel 10:1 (2017). See also Siobhan Gorman, Yochi J. Dreazen, and August Cole, “Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones,” Wall Street Journal, December 17, 2009, and Marc Goodman, “Criminals and Terrorists Can Fly Drones Too,” Time, January 31, 2013.

[40] Kenneth M. Pollack, “Facing the Iranian Challenge in the Middle East: The Role of Iranian-Backed Militias,” Statement before the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade On Iranian Backed Militias: Destabilizing the Middle East,” October 4, 2017.

[41] Ali Nader, Iran’s Influence in Afghanistan (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2014), RR-616; Ali Nader, Iran’s Role in Iraq (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2015), PE-151-OSD.

[42] Testimony of General Joseph Votel before the House Armed Services Committee on the Posture of U.S. Central Command, March 15, 2017.

[43] Carlotta Gall, “In Afghanistan, U.S. Exits, and Iran Comes In,” New York Times, August 5, 2017. See also Adnan Abu Amer, “In Eye of Regional Storm, Hamas Pushed Closer to Tehran,” Al-Monitor, June 2, 2017.

[44] Chris Zambellis, “Terror in Tehran: The Islamic State Goes to War with the Islamic Republic,” CTC Sentinel 10:6 (2017).

[45] “Bahrain is Still Hounding Its Shia,” Economist, January 19, 2017. See also Bethan McKernan, “Inside the Saudi Town That’s Been Under Siege For Three Months by Its Own Government,” Independent, August 4, 2017, and Phillip Smyth, Tim Michetti, and Owen Daniels, “Revolution Unveiled: A Closer Look at Iran’s Presence and Influence in the Middle East,” Atlantic Council, September 14, 2017.

[46] Phillip Smyth, “Iran’s Afghan Shi`a Fighters in Syria,” The Washington Institute For Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 2262 (2014).

[47] Heistein and West.

[48] Andrew deGrandpre and Andrew Tilghman, “Iran linked to deaths of 500 U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan,” Military Times, July 14, 2015.

[49] Jacob Zenn, “The Islamic Movement and Iranian Intelligence Activities in Nigeria,” CTC Sentinel 6:10 (2013). See also Donna Abu Nasr, “As Trump Makes Threats, Iran Makes Friends,” Bloomberg, March 8, 2017, and Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah’s ‘Diplomats’ Go Operational,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch 2734 (2016).

[50] Matthew Levitt, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God (Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2013).

[51] Shafika Mattar, “Jordan Fears Growing Shiite Influence,” Washington Post, November 17, 2006.

[52] Nicholas Blanford, “Why Iran is Standing by Its Weakened, and Expensive, Ally Syria,” Christian Science Monitor, April 27, 2015.

[53] Robbie Gramer and Paul McCleary, “Iraqi-Kurdish Clash in Kirkuk Opens Door to More Iranian Influence,” Foreign Policy, October 16, 2017.

[54] Derek Henry Flood, “The Hawija Offensive: A Liberation Exposes Faultlines,” CTC Sentinel 10:9 (2017).

[55] Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly, “After Raqqa, the U.S. Sees Russia, Assad, Looming Over Remaining Syrian Battlefield,” Washington Post, October 19, 2017.

[56] Paul McCleary, “Iranian Backed Militias Employ Drone Against U.S. Forces in Syria,” Foreign Policy, June 8, 2017.

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