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'Crony Terrorism' Fueling Iran's Use of Child Soldiers, Haley Tells Security Council

Surrounded by security, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro outside United Nations headquarters in New York on Sept. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley slammed Iran for grooming and recruiting children into the ranks of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as the country nears Student Basij Day on Oct. 30.

“What does Basij Day celebrate? It is the day during the Iran-Iraq War when a 13-year-old boy strapped a live grenade to his body and leaped under an oncoming Iraqi tank. His name was Hossein Fahmideh. Child soldiers like Hossein were a horrifying feature of the Iran-Iraq War,” Haley said today at a UN Security Council meeting on Middle East issues. “Children were sent into battle with a plastic ‘key to paradise’ hung around their necks. They were untrained and considered expendable.”

The child soldiers of Iran “were used as cannon fodder and as a human mine sweeper,” she noted,  and “the dead far outpaced the wounded.”

Iran reports that 36,000 school-aged children were killed and nearly 3,000 wounded in the Iran-Iraq war, Haley noted.

Nowadays, she said, “some in the international community still labor under the misimpression that the Iranian regime might be a responsible international actor, or might abide by the laws of a civilized society,” but Iran practices the “continued use of children to fight and die in Iranian aggression abroad.”

“The use of child soldiers is a moral outrage that every civilized nation rejects, while Iran celebrates it. The Basij Resistance Force is a paramilitary force operating under Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. In addition to cracking down on dissidents and enforcing internal security in Iran, the Basij indoctrinate school children and provide combat training to children as young as 12 years old. These children are then coerced into fighting abroad for the IRGC,” Haley continued. “Since at least early 2015, the Iranian regime has used the Basij to recruit and train Iranian children to fight in Syria to support the brutal Assad regime. The Basij also targets Afghan immigrants in Iran, some as young as 14 years old, to fight in Syria.”

“The United States has followed the money that funds the recruitment, training, and coerced deployment of child soldiers in Iran. Earlier this week, we identified the sources of the Basij’s funding, and took action to cut them off from the global economy and financial system.”

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced Tuesday sanctions against businesses providing financial support to the Basij Resistance Force.

“This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement. “The international community must understand that business entanglements with the Bonyad Taavon Basij network and IRGC front companies have real world humanitarian consequences. This helps fuel the Iranian regime’s violent ambitions across the Middle East.”

Haley called big businesses “funding the war crime of using child soldiers… crony terrorism.”

The ambassador urged other UN members “to join with the United States in helping to protect Iranian children from the government that is supposed to protect them.”

Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, tweeted Wednesday, “US addiction to sanctions is out of control. Iranian private bank key to food/medicine import is designated because of alleged EIGHT degrees of separation w/ another arbitrary target. In comparison, all humans on planet are connected by SIX degrees of separation. You do the math.”

Zarif then charged that the latest sanctions violate two International Court of Justice orders: “to not impede humanitarian trade & to not aggravate the dispute.”

“Utter disregard for rule of law & human rights of an entire people,” he continued tweeting. “US outlaw regime’s hostility toward Iranians heightened by addiction to sanctions.”