First Published: 2012-01-14

 

Head of Al Quds force leads Iran’s initiative to arm Syrian regime

 

US believes Iran is supplying munitions to aid Syria's bloody protest crackdown in initiative spearheaded by Tehran's revolutionary guard supremo.

 

Middle East Online

By Stephen Collinson – WASHINGTON

Possible successor to Ahmadinejad

The United States believes Iran is supplying munitions to aid Syria's bloody protest crackdown in an initiative spearheaded by Tehran's revolutionary guard supremo, senior US officials said Friday.

Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps elite Al Quds force, was in the Syrian capital this month, one official said, in what Washington sees as the most concrete sign yet that Iranian aid to Syria includes military hardware.

"We are confident that he was received at the highest levels of the Syrian government, including by President Assad," the official said on condition of anonymity.

"We think this relates to Iranian support for the Syrian government's attempts to suppress its people."

The official said Washington has reason to believe that Iran is supplying security-related equipment "including munitions" to Syrian forces.

"The US government believes Iran has supplied Syria with munitions" for use in the military crackdown, he said.

The United States has long suspected that Iran has been aiding Syria's purge against protesters as Assad tries to cling to power and avoid the fate of other Arab dictators felled by the Arab Spring uprisings.

Another official said Soleimani's visit marks the strongest indication yet of direct cooperation between the allies amid a purge that the UN estimates has left more than 5,000 people dead since March.

The officials did not give further details of the information that has led them to conclude that Tehran has indeed provided security equipment and munitions to the Syrian armed forces.

The powerful Soleimani has been mentioned by some observers as a possible successor to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and has repeatedly been the target of US sanctions.

Washington last year accused him of links to an alleged plot by the Al Quds force to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington by hiring assassins from a Mexican drug cartel for $1.5 million.

The latest revelations come with the United States locked in a tense standoff with Tehran over its nuclear program and as maritime tensions between the two states simmering in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil shipping route.

Washington has warned Iran it will not tolerate any attempt to close the Strait, as Tehran becomes increasingly infuriated by the growing impact of US and international sanctions designed to deter its nuclear program.

The Revolutionary Guards maritime division, which handles military operations in the strait and the Gulf, is expected to hold maneuvres in the area soon.

Signs of direct cooperation between Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Syria came a week after Mahmud Suleiman Haj Hamad, a former official in Assad's regime, accused Iran and Iraq of financially aiding the Syrian crackdown.

He made the allegations at a press conference in Cairo after announcing his defection from the regime, according to an Al-Jazeera report.

Iran has also been standing firm with Syria after the Arab League suspended Damascus over the repression wracking the country and imposed fierce pressure on the Assad regime to accept a peace plan.

Tehran has been concerned about the possible collapse of Syria, its principal regional ally, a scenario that would leave it even more isolated in its own region as nuclear sanctions bite.

It has accused its traditional foes Israel and the United States of stirring up trouble in Syria.

In a televised speech lasting nearly two hours on Tuesday, Assad vowed to crush "terrorism" with an iron fist and accused outsiders of trying to destabilize his country.

That prompted opposition movements to accuse him of pushing Syria towards civil war and world powers to accuse him of trying to shift the blame for the 10 months of bloodletting in the protests against his regime.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the speech as "chilling" and the United States says Assad has long since lost political legitimacy after oppressing the hopes of Syrians for freedom and democracy.

 

Ahead of elections, new clashes remind Tunisia of need to fight terror

IS now world’s wealthiest terror group

South Yemen separatists vow to intensify secession protests

Saudi Arabia jails mothers for preparing sons to wage jihad

Turkish pianist to Islamist-rooted government: Don't be afraid of artists!

Germany offers to help Armenia forge peace with Turkey

Libya wakes up from ‘Dubai dream’ to face Somalia-like ‘failed state’

Relatives of Iraq massacre victims: Blackwater guards should be killed

Ghannouchi makes it clear to Tunisia: It’s either political Islam or Daesh!

Deadly clashes erupt after army raid in northern Lebanon

200 Iraqi Kurd fighters to travel through Turkey to Kobane

Coalition strikes in Syria eliminate more than 500 jihadists in one month

Jury finds Blackwater guards guilty of 2007 'massacre' in Iraq

Iraq Kurds approve reinforcements for Kobane

Israel classifies car crash as ‘hit and run terror attack’

Turkish woman arrested for stepping on Koran

Erdogan criticises US for airdrops on Kobane

Iraq schools provide shelter but late to open for classes

Syria air force shoots down two of three 'IS warplanes'

Egypt court rules on ‘Nasr City terror cell’

Fire from Egypt wounds two Israeli soldiers near border

By hook or by crook, settlers notch up property gains in East Jerusalem

Turkey envoy meets leader of parallel government in Libya

Israel arrests seven Palestinian fishermen off northern Gaza

Khamenei to Abadi: Iraq can beat 'Islamic State' without foreign troops

Saudi special court rules in cases of riots and terrorism

Libya army scores small victory in Benghazi

Only in Libya: Government calls for civil disobedience

Kasserine reaps bitter harvest from Tunisia revolution: Poverty and terrorism

Iraq Kurds set to vote on deployment of Peshmerga forces to Syria

Islamic State ‘share in US weapons’ embarrasses Pentagon

Alderton: Morocco unrivalled business gateway to sub-Saharan Africa

Protests over IS turn Istanbul University into war zone

Turkey eyes stricter punishment against lawbreakers at protests

For Sudan President: Promises are something and re-election is something else

Iran returns Abadi to ‘house of obedience’

From traditional military to counterinsurgency force: Syria army grows more capable

South Sudan rivals accept 'responsibility' for civil war

British drones in Iraq also used for Syria surveillance

Turkey launches new wave of wire-tapping arrests

Rise of Shiite militias challenges government authority in Iraq

Syria Kurds show impressive resistance to ‘Islamic State’ in Kobane

Vote or boycott: Grim record of self-serving politicians puts off voters in Tunisia

Egypt universities tighten security to avoid new Islamist violence

Iran forces inside Iraq as Abadi rules out foreign ground intervention!