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American attack causes death of Afghans enlisted to battle for Iran

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Amidst the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, a memorial service was held to honor the “martyrs” who perished in the U.S. airstrike on military bases in Syria. According to Iranian state television, the solemn event took place at the main cemetery in Tehran, the Iranian capital, earlier in the month. A group of individuals gathered in rows of folding chairs, with men seated in the front and women at the back. Children moved about, while a young man distributed a box of sweets and recited prayers through a microphone. What made this memorial particularly poignant was that the 12 fallen men being honored weren’t Iranians—they were Afghans.

Reports from soldiers and local media have indicated that those who lost their lives belonged to the Fatemiyoun Brigade, a force that has largely remained under the radar since its inception during the Syrian civil war a decade ago. The group, which was established to aid President Bashar al-Assad of Syria in his fight against rebel forces and Islamic State terrorists, has predominantly drawn its members from Afghan refugees residing in Iran. To entice individuals to join their cause, Iran offered a monthly stipend of $500, schooling for their children, and the promise of Iranian residency.

To this day, the Fatemiyoun Brigade remains roughly 20,000 strong, operating under the command of the Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Iranian media outlets linked with the Guards, as well as social media platforms dedicated to the Fatemiyoun, have published the names and photographs of the slain Afghans. These individuals were reportedly killed in U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, which were carried out in retaliation for a drone attack that claimed the lives of three American soldiers at a military base in Jordan.

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Despite the loss of lives, Iranian officials publicly refuted any claims of their military personnel being among the casualties. Amir Saeid Iravani, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, flatly denied any association between Iran and the bases targeted in Iraq and Syria. He vehemently rebuked the U.S., accusing them of falsely attributing the attacks to Iran and stating that only civilians had been killed.

Interestingly, the Guards chose not to release a statement acknowledging the deaths of the Afghans under their command, a practice that is normally observed when Iranian forces are killed. In the face of these tragic events, repatriation was arranged for the bodies of these Afghans to their families, with solemn funeral processions taking place in cities across Iran, including Tehran, Shiraz, Qum, and Mashhad.

Now, the question arises of exactly how these foreign nationals found themselves embroiled in the escalating tensions between Iran and the United States. Among those killed in the airstrikes were two senior commanders who were close confidants of the slain former Quds Force commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who was assassinated by the U.S. in Iraq in 2020.

The majority of the Afghans who sought refuge in Iran over the years were Hazaras, one of the largest ethnic groups in Afghanistan who share the Shiite Muslim faith with most Iranians. Once natural allies of American forces due to their shared animosity towards the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the Hazaras have found themselves realigned with Iran in the complex geopolitical landscape of the Middle East today. Despite the Hazaras’ alignment with Iran, they face numerous challenges and systemic discrimination.

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The story of these Afghans underscores a pervasive sentiment of betrayal and disillusionment. Many feel that they are being exploited as cannon fodder by Iran. There is growing anxiety among Afghans, who feel that they are not being adequately protected by Iran and that their sacrifices are being disregarded to serve the country’s own interests. Frustration and resentment are simmering among Afghans, including fighters for the Quds Force, towards Iran’s handling of the deaths and the lack of acknowledgment of their sacrifices.

Amidst the tragedy and grief, it is important to take a step back and evaluate the broader implications of this geopolitical conflict. Analysts have emphasized that there is no concrete evidence to suggest that Fatemiyoun forces were directly involved in attacks against American bases in Iraq and Syria. However, the Brigade plays a pivotal role in facilitating Iran’s logistical operations for the network of militias it sponsors, finances, and equips across the region.

American fighter jets obliterated the base where the Fatemiyoun were killed in Deir al-Zour, in eastern Syria, leaving behind a haunting scene of rubble and debris. The Pentagon estimates that over 40 militants associated with Iranian proxy groups were killed or injured in the strikes. These attacks were a retaliatory response to previous provocations from Iran-backed militias targeting American bases.

At the funeral for the slain Afghans, including two senior commanders, a prominent conservative cleric lamented the deaths of these vulnerable individuals, highlighting their status as “martyrs without borders” and “jihadists for Islam and the resistance front.” This effusive praise underscores the complex power dynamics at play and the deep-seated sentiments of nationalism, faith, and loyalty that intertwine in this volatile region.

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The tragic deaths of these Afghans serve as a poignant reminder of the countless lives that are impacted by the protracted conflict in the Middle East. These individuals, who sought refuge in Iran, now find themselves embroiled in a web of geopolitical tensions and systemic discrimination. As the world grapples with the fallout of these events, it is crucial to recognize the human cost of such conflicts and the devastating toll they exact on the lives of countless individuals.

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Immigration in Maine Addressing Labor Shortage Could Set Trend for U.S.

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A significant labor gap in Maine’s lobster industry is being filled by immigrants, shedding light on the critical role that foreign-born workers are likely to play in the U.S. economy as the native-born population ages. Maine, known for its abundant lobster population, is grappling with an aging workforce that is increasingly unable to sustain the demands of the thriving lobster industry, valued at $1 billion.

Ben Conniff, a founder of Luke’s Lobster, underscores the importance of immigrants in sustaining the natural resources economy of the state, as many native-born workers are not inclined towards manufacturing work in food processing. Since its establishment in 2013, Luke’s Lobster has heavily relied on immigrants to staff its lobster processing plant, highlighting the vital role played by foreign-born workers in filling labor gaps.

With Maine boasting the oldest population in the U.S., with a median age of 45.1, the state offers a glimpse into the economic future of America, where immigrants are poised to be a crucial source of new workers and economic vitality in the coming years.

As immigration continues to be a hotly debated topic in the country, the influx of immigrants has been instrumental in boosting the American economy’s potential. The Congressional Budget Office has revised upwards its population and economic growth projections for the next decade, attributing the growth to the wave of newcomers entering the workforce.

Maine’s initiatives to attract and integrate immigrants into the workforce, such as the creation of an Office of New Americans, reflect the state’s proactive approach towards addressing labor shortages. Private companies like Luke’s Lobster have also taken steps to diversify and supplement the aging lobster fishing industry by training immigrants and minorities in lobster fishing and licensing processes.

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Chadai Gatembo, an 18-year-old immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, exemplifies the success story of immigrants finding opportunities in Maine. Despite facing challenges on his journey to the U.S., Gatembo is now on the path to becoming a full-fledged lobsterman, showcasing the potential for immigrants to thrive in new industries.

The influx of immigrants is not without its challenges, with issues of work authorization and economic stability confronting many newcomers. Adriana Hernandez, a mother of four from Venezuela, highlights the economic hardship faced by immigrants awaiting work permits, underscoring the barriers faced by unauthorized workers in integrating into the labor market.

Despite these challenges, the overall impact of immigration on the U.S. economy is significant. Immigrants have helped to bolster job growth, insulate the economy against downturns, and contribute to a more diverse and innovative workforce. Economists predict that immigration will play a crucial role in addressing labor shortages and demographic shifts as the native-born population ages.

The entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants like Chenda Chamreoun, who has risen from lobster cleaning to a quality assurance supervisor and now aims to start her own catering business, showcases the economic potential of foreign-born workers. Immigrants tend to be more entrepreneurial, adding to the innovation and productivity of the American economy.

J. Edward Moreno contributed reporting from New York, and Zolan Kanno-Youngs from Washington.

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