Iran Forming Basij-Like Assad Force?
US officials link Tehran with the pro-Assad militia Jaysh al-Sha'bi (JaS), which Washington has banned as terrorist. David Cohen, under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the US Treasury, told the Washington Post JaS was "essentially an Iran-Hizbullah joint venture". But other experts say it is modelled on Iran's Basij militia. Iran's presence in Syria was amplified recently by the killing of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Gen Hassan Shateri. Iran's top political and IRGC elite converged on Shateri's funeral in Tehran, and the Raja website quoted a leading theocrat as describing Shateri "as no less than Imad Mughniyeh", the murdered Hizbullah military chief credited with the deaths of hundreds of Americans and Israelis in the 1980s and beyond. Reference to Mughniyeh, the past century's most notorious terrorist after Usama bin Laden, did little to hide Iran's deep role in the Syrian war. Basij chief Mahdi Ta'eb, leading the build-up of JaS, recently called Syria a province of Iran, and said: "if we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran".