Iran Ally Hizbullah Pays Syrian Rebels to Switch Sides

(Wall Street Journal) Sune Engel Rasmussen and Suha Ma'ayeh - Iran's ally Hizbullah is paying former U.S.-backed rebels to switch sides and join a growing force in southern Syria near Israel's border. The Iran-backed militia has recruited up to 2,000 fighters, most of them from rebel groups that lost U.S. funding last year, according to a former rebel commander who tracks recruitment in villages in southern Syria. For former rebels, joining Hizbullah provides a guarantee against arrest by the Syrian government. It also pays a $250 monthly salary, more than the Syrian army gives and compensation for lost income from U.S. support. Hizbullah's recruitment of fighters in southern Syria is "a highly destabilizing prospect," said U.S. Syria envoy Joel Rayburn. "The idea that Hizbullah would be expanding its presence down there on the Jordanian frontier, near the Golan Heights, near the Israeli frontier - this would increase the chance for conflict." In a sign of further efforts to deepen its presence in the area, Iran in late October established a branch of a Shiite religious organization, al-Zahra, in the southern province of Daraa, following a visit to the area by a representative of Iran's supreme leader.

2018-11-02 00:00:00

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