Video of captured Iraqi militants in Aleppo draws criticism
During an interview with four alleged Iraqis captured in Aleppo by a Syrian rebel group, the men said they belonged to an Iraqi-Shia militia group called Harakat al-Nujaba.
The men said they were paid by Iran to fight in the Syrian regime's recent offensive on rebel areas in Aleppo.
The video of the captive fighters was released on Saturday by the Levant Front rebel group, and has sparked angry responses in Iraq with many unhappy that their countrymen are being as pawns by Iran in the regional conflict.
The Iraqi militiamen were reportedly taken prisoner in the Sheikh Saeed district of southern Aleppo on Friday. It came after rebels successfully repelled a pro-regime assault on the area.
Rebels uploaded images of the captives on social media soon after they were detained.
Harakat al-Nujaba are thought to have deployed around a thousand fighters to Aleppo in September as part of the regime's devastating assault on rebal areas of the war-torn city.
They are among tens of thousands of foreign fighters who are thought to be plugging the gaps in the Syrian army's decimated ranks.
"ًWe came to fight in Syria because of the situation in Iraq; we are in dire need of money. They pay us $1,500 a month," one captive alleged in the 20 minute-long video, while.
When pressed on who paid their salaries the men said "Iran", but claimed to have only met Iranian troops in passing in Syria.
|Harakat al-Nujaba has deployed around 1,000 fighters to Aleppo [Getty]
"We are just here to fight in exchange for money," the men answer when asked whether there were there to fight Syrian rebels or the Islamic State group.
The captives end the video with a message to Iraqis, warning them not to be tempted by quick money and advising them to stay away from the fighting in Syria.
"We were wrong to have come here. All I ask for is my mother's forgiveness," a captive says.
The video has spurred angry responses in Iraq, with many people condemning young Iraqis who leave their own war-torn country to fight abroad, particularly at the behest of Iran.
"The Iranians are doing whatever they want. Whoever goes to Syria to kill Syrians must meet the same fate," Rami al-Karkhi, a member of the Iraqi Communist Party, told The New Arab's Iraq correspondent Qassem al-Ali.
Member of the Shia Sadrist movement, Hussein al-Basri, also condemned the deployment of Iraqi fighters to Syria.
"We have ongoing battles in Iraq and cities that are still under IS control. And Iran is taking our young men to Syria because leaders of the Shia militias and clerics have become shoes on the feet of Soleimani," Basri said, referring to Iran's Republican Guard commander in Syria, General Qasem Soleimani.
Soleimani heads the Quds force, which is credited with developing a coherent strategy that has helped the Syrian regime reverse losses sustained against rebel forces before Russian military intervention.
Basri denied that members of the Sadrist movement's armed wing Saraya al-Salam had been sent to Syria, saying: "Iraq is our priority. Members of the faction are not mercenaries."