Sunday, September 16, 2012
Army commander gives clear sign of Tehran's continuing support for al-Assad's regime but denies troops signify military presence
Ian Black, Middle East editor
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 16 September 2012
"Iran has confirmed for the first time that forces from its revolutionary guards corps are in Syria helping Bashar al-Assad's government crush rebels, and warned that it would get involved militarily if its Arab ally came under attack.
In a clear public signal of Tehran's continuing support for Assad, the commander of the Islamic republic's elite military formation said that "a number" of members of the IRGC's Qods force were in Syria, though General Mohammad Ali Jafari gave no further details and claimed this did not constitute "a military presence".
It was a surprisingly candid response to persistent claims by western countries, the Syrian opposition and Israel that Iran is actively helping the regime fight its enemies in the 18th month of a bloody war....
British officials say the IRGC has provided riot control equipment and technical advice on how to crush dissent, for example on how to flood areas with security forces. Iran is also providing support to improve the Syrian regime's intelligence-gathering capabilities and help to monitor protesters' use of the internet and mobile phone network, including text messaging.
Iran is said to have been dismayed at the heavy-handed way its long-standing Arab ally responded when the unrest began in March 2011, contrasting it with its relatively more sophisticated response to protests that followed its own disputed presidential election in 2009...."