. . . while seeing the sights on a holy pilgrimage.
(CBS News) - The State Department tells CBS News it has no reason to doubt Syrian rebels' claims that 48 Iranians they are holding hostage are members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard military unit.
Iran has flatly denied the claim that the hostages are military personnel, insisting they are all civilians who were in Syria to visit the Sayyida Zainab shrine, south of Damascus, when they were abducted. The shrine has been frequented by Shiite Muslim pilgrims in the past, including many from Iran.
On Wednesday, however, Iran's foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by the Islamic Republic's government-controlled media as saying, "some retired individuals from the Guards and army" were among those being held.
"After some time in which pilgrims from Iran were not being dispatched to Syria... we took steps to send retired forces from various organizations," he was quoted as saying by Iran's state news agency and other state-run media. "Some retired individuals from the Guards and army were dispatched to Syria to make a pilgrimage."
Bet they have a helluva retirement plan.
Iran is fighting in Syria because its collapse will hurt Iran badly, and not because it will deprive them of sightseeing destinations. The question is whether the contagion can spread.