Iran's Revolutionary Guard admits to providing military assistance in Syria
Iran confirmed on Sunday what has long been suspected: It is providing assistance to the Syrian government in its war against an uprising. Iran's Qods Force is also operating in Lebanon.
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Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor. He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog. He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.
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The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard officially confirmed that his organization is assisting the Syrian government side of that country's civil war. The statement is the first public confirmation of Iran's involvement in the Syrian conflict.
Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari told a press conference in Tehran Sunday that members of the Qods Force, the Revolutionary Guards' international branch, are currently operating in Syria and Lebanon, Haaretz reports.
Members of the force are not currently providing military assistance, but give advice and "opinions" in a number of areas in which Iran has experience, Jafari said. He added that they were also assisting on the financial level.
If Syria were attacked militarily however, Jafari said, his troops will provide support, although he did not provide any further details.
Jafari told reporters, "We are proud to defend Syria, which constitutes a resistance to the Zionist entity," adding that Iran provides advice based on its expertise, while other countries support terror organizations.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and most of his top regime officials are Alawites, a religion that began as an offshoot of Shiite Islam, Iran's predominant religion. But Alawites are a minority within Syria, where the majority of the country is Sunni, including many of the rebels.
Iran's involvement in Syria has long been rumored, and Jafari's confirmation gives credence to other reports detailing Iran's role in the civil war. Iraqi fugitive Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi claimed on Sunday that Iran is ferrying supplies to Syria through Iraqi airspace, reports Lebanon's The Daily Star.
“My country is unfortunately becoming an Iranian corridor to support the autocratic regime of Bashar Assad, there is no doubt about that,” Hashemi told Reuters in an interview in Istanbul.
“It is not only the airspace. It is thousands of militia now inside Syria, supporting Bashar Assad and killing Syrian innocent people,” he said, citing reports he had received from Iraq’s Anbar province, which borders Syria, and from members of the Syrian opposition.