They didn’t sound like Shi’ite pilgrims to me.
“Everyone on this trip was either a Guard or a Basij militia. This wasn’t a regular tour group,” said an employee of the tour agency that organized the trip.
The tour operating company Samen Al Aemmeh, is not open to the public and solely caters to members and families of Guards or the Basij militia.
The company is also a subsidiary of Samen Al Aemmeh Industries, one of Guards’ largest umbrella groups, which is under sanctions by the United Nations Security Council and by the U.S. Treasury for its alleged role in missile building and Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
The reason for the 48 men’s journey, at the height of some of the most violent clashes in Syria, is not yet clear. But sources told WSJ that the men were all active members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps (ICRG), on a mission to train Syrian forces in counterinsurgency methods, as Syrian forces fight a decisive battle in Aleppo.