Iran’s support for Syria’s al-Assad regime is allowing Iran to develop a multinational, military coalition of Shi’a combatants with combat experience. These veterans can be deployed in future conflicts as assets in support of Tehran’s ambitions. Additionally, Iran’s support for the Alawite-Shia house of Assad is lending impetus to the formation of a Shi’a Political International. Tehran’s assistance to the Syria’s Shia also is evidence of Iran’s theological commitment to counter Sunni Gulf State influence in the region.

While Tehran is spending billions to finance their operations in Syria, there also are advantages accrued by the investment. For example, Iranian officers are gaining invaluable command and control experience over a multinational force. Hezbollah troops are honing their combat skills for any future war with Israel. Shi’a Muslims are developing a sense of felt-unity in combat against their Sunni nemesis. Shi’a returnees to their home countries will be more effective in protecting their interests against anti-Shi’a pogroms sponsored by Sunni extremist groups. Iran will establish more pockets of influence and intelligence networks inside several of its regional neighbors.

Some detractors of Iran’s success in the recruitment of Shi’a fighters to join their multi-national coalition in Syria accuse Tehran of pressuring people, especially Afghan refugees to sign up for the crusade. Others cynically accuse Iran of exploiting impoverished Shi’a to join. Another criticism is that Iran protects its own soldiers by hiring more mercenaries to do its bidding.  While all of these accusations might have some merit, the videos of chanting Shi’a fighters shouting in Urdu, Farsi, and Arabic indicate that their enthusiasm is authentic. “Karbala is the Answer---Every Single Day is the Day of Karbala---- We are all Ali—We are all Hussein!”