The Islamic Republic of Iran is training thousands of foreign mercenaries and exporting them to fight in proxy wars in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, a leading opposition group has claimed in a detailed intelligence report.
In a report intended to sway the opinion of Iran hawks in the administration of US President Donald Trump, the People's Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) has detailed a vast network of specialised training camps run by the Iranian revolutionary guard.
The PMOI claims that through the network of at least 14 camps run by the revolutionary guard, hundreds of fighters are trained each month to join the wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
At the largest of the training centres, the Imam Ali Garrison, run by the al-Quds force in northern Tehran, basic foreign fighters are sent for training courses of 45 days and courses of up to 12 months.
According to the PMOI's network of informants inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), the largest contingent trained in the Imam Ali Garrison have come from Syria, and at some points have included as many as 230 trainees at a time. In addition, the al-Quds forces in Iraq have also been sent to the garrison to receive missile training as well as fighters from other countries, such as Yemen, Lebanon and Bahrain.
The White House has said it is considering designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity. The move would be a departure from the policy pursued by the previous Obama administration which had a rapprochement with Tehran.
The United States has already imposed sanctions on individuals and entities linked to the IRGC, Iran's most powerful security entity. It is has control over large stakes in Iran's economy and huge influence in its political system. However, sanctions on the group as a whole may inflame tensions in the region with Shia miltias in Iraq, battling the Islamic State in a US coalition armed and trained by Iran.
Sanam Vakil, Ph.D an Associate Fellow at Catham House told IBTimes UK that the PMOI report spoke to the extent of the IRGC's training scheme, although she could not independently verify the numbers.
"What I take from this is that this is a very sophisticated operation," Vakil said. "Iran's strategic strength is in a-symmetrical proxy relationships. Its conventional military is weak particularly in Iraqi and Syria they have had success in the past. Of course we also know they are the God Parents of Hezbollah."
"It is unclear on the numbers. Different studies have been done on the numbers and how many proxies Iran has in different locations in Iraq, Syria and the like," she added.
In 2002 the PMOI gave crucial information to the Bush administration concerning Iran's nuclear programme. The largest Iranian resistance movement, the people's mojahedin is a member of the democratic opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran, opposed to the Hassan Rohani regime.
However, the group has courted controversy since the 1970s, when it was accused of carrying out a string of attacks on US targets. The PMOI denies the accusations. The organisation was only delisted as a terror group by the US and EU in 2009 and 2012 respectively. The PMOI renounced violence in 2001.