Hezbollah and Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary forces have been seen helping Iran’s Basiji forces crackdown on protesters across the Islamic Republic.
According to sources, plainclothes men with Lebanese-accented Arabic were seen trying to suppress riots in various cities in Iran, including Tehran.
They are in addition to the hundreds of troops belonging to the police, Basiji and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who have been central in trying to quash the protests.
Iran has been engulfed in widespread protests against the regime since mid-September after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was killed in police custody after she was detained by the country’s morality police for not properly wearing a hijab.
“The Iranian state is a target and so any incident is exploited…to incite against this state”Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah
Hezbollah on the Iran protests
Earlier this month, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah referred to Amini’s death as a “vague incident” and that the protests rocking the country are not reflective of the true will of Iranians.
“The Iranian state is a target, and so any incident is exploited... to incite against this state,” he said. “This vague incident was exploited and people took to the streets.”
Though rare, Iran has in the past used Hezbollah and other Arabic-speaking proxies to help quash protests.
According to a report in BBC Persian, during protests in 2009, riot police and plainclothes officers with Arabic accents were seen cracking down on Iranians who were demonstrating against the results of the presidential election.
The report said the men were believed to be from Hezbollah or Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas. Both groups rely heavily on Tehran for funding and weapons.
Despite economic hardships facing its own citizens, Iran sends more than $1 billion to its proxy groups, including more than $500 million to Hezbollah, hundreds of millions to the Houthis in Yemen, more than $100m. to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and tens of millions of dollars to pro-Iranian militias in Iraq.