How Iran Is Helping Assad Suppress Syria’s “Arab Spring”


Vol. 11, No. 9    July 20, 2011

  • Since the beginning of the protest wave against Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, Iran has backed Damascus and assisted it in both the security and propaganda aspects of its violent repression of the protests. Tehran charges that Syria is the victim of an attempt by the West, led by the United States, to overthrow the Assad regime, under cover of the “Arab Spring.”
  • At the same time, Iran sees the “Arab Spring” or, as it calls it, the “Islamic awakening” as a golden opportunity to export Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution to the changing Arab world.
  • Yet with the turmoil in Syria, Iran now finds itself confronting a real possibility of losing one of its most important allies. The fall of the Assad regime would likely undermine the resistance camp and break the continuity of the “Shiite crescent” stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
  • Reports have emerged about elements of the Iranian IRGC’s Al-Quds Force (responsible for subversion and special operations outside of Iran), advisers from Iran’s domestic Law Enforcement Services, as well as Hizbullah men working throughout Syria to help Assad repress the popular protests. Iran also apparently provided Syria with advanced eavesdropping equipment which enables the identification of activists who converse by phone or use social networks on the Internet.
  • Damascus occupies a pivotal point between the old Middle Eastern order and the new order that Iran is seeking to shape in keeping with its worldview. Syria’s special status in opposing a Pax Americana (a minority position among the Arab states) and having good relations with the two past superpowers of the Middle East – (Ottoman) Turkey and (Persian) Iran – is what gives it a key role in the region and perhaps explains (in part) the West’s reluctance to take a clear position, instead preferring a wait-and-see attitude toward the ongoing violent repression in Syria.
  • The departure of Assad, the last of the brave Arab leaders who defy the West, and coming on the heels of Saddam Hussein’s downfall, would likely herald the end of the era of Arab nationalism and facilitate the formation of a new Arab and/or Islamic identity. In the shadow of the growing assertiveness of (Shiite) Iran and (Sunni) Turkey, both of which seek a great-power role, the Arab world finds itself divided and lacking any guiding paradigm as the old order falls apart.

Since the beginning of the protest wave against Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, the Iranian regime has backed Damascus and assisted it in both the security and propaganda aspects of its violent repression of the protests. In contrast to its position on what it calls “the Muslim awakening in the Middle East and North Africa that draws inspiration from the Islamic Revolution” in Iran, Tehran does not view the Syrian protest and its violent repression as part of this phenomenon. It sees instead a desperate attempt by the West, led by the United States, to act under the pretext of this protest to overthrow the Assad regime, which constitutes part of the “resistance camp” against Western hegemony in the region.

Having gained experience from the violent (and so far successful) repression of the Iranian protest wave following the controversial elections of 2009, Iran is sending advisers from its domestic security body, the Law Enforcement Services (LEF), and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) to help its ally and important member of the resistance camp stay afloat.

The Resistance Camp under Challenge

Despite their ongoing close ties, which are rooted in Syria’s backing of Iran in the Iran-Iraq War, Iran sees Syria as the weak link of the resistance camp. Iran is the leader of this camp, which also includes Hizbullah, which recently completed its takeover of Lebanon, and the Damascus-based Palestinian terror organizations (such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad). In Tehran’s view, the resistance camp is meant to constitute a “fighting alternative” to the Western agenda in the region with its partners, the moderate Arab states (the “moderate camp”). Iran seeks to weaken the West’s presence, influence, and power in the region, and to undermine the process of political accommodation in the region, particularly in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere.

 

Concurrent with the upheaval experienced by Damascus are powerful domestic processes in Iran connected to generational shifts and the redefinition of the Islamic Revolution in more nationalistic terms. This is the context of the fierce internal power struggle between President Ahmadinejad and his supporters, and Supreme Leader Khamenei and the old religious establishment, with each side trying to overcome the other and diminish its powers.

At the same time, Iran sees the protest wave in North Africa and the Middle East as containing the potential for a more Islamic Middle East, necessitating renewed efforts to export the revolution beyond the borders of Iran. Iran sees the “Arab Spring” or, as it calls it, the “Islamic awakening” as a golden opportunity to export the Islamic Revolution of the Khomeini school to the changing Arab world and remake it in the image of that revolution. Yet with the turmoil in Syria, Iran now finds itself confronting a real possibility of losing one of its most important allies. The fall of the Assad regime would likely undermine the resistance camp and break the continuity of the “Shiite crescent” stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Thus, Iran is showing a profound determination to preserve Assad’s rule.

Assistance to Libya, the Taliban, and the Extremist Shiites in Iraq

Iran also fears possible intervention by NATO in Syrian territory (including via Turkey). It has harshly criticized the NATO forces’ activity in Libya “against a civilian population,” and in Iraq and Afghanistan as well. Tehran also provides weapons to elements that are fighting the alliance. Lately there have been several disclosures of weapons transfers to the Taliban in Afghanistan and to the extremist Shiites in Iraq, who threaten the stability of the political process and have killed many American soldiers and Sunni civilians.1

 

It was reported in Le Monde in July that the Al-Quds Force of the IRGC, which is responsible for subversion and special operations outside of Iran, is supplying weapons to Gaddafi’s forces in Libya so he can strike the “American-French-British axis of evil,” according to a direct order by Khamenei and against the opinion of Ahmadinejad.2

The Export of Surveillance and Security Equipment for Violent Repression

A short time after the disturbances in Syria began and with the mounting flow of Syrian refugees into Turkey, reports began to emerge about Iranian elements (“bearded and speaking substandard Arabic”) of the Al-Quds Force under the command of Qassem Suleimani, as well as Hizbullah men, working throughout Syria to repress the popular protest. An Iranian exile website wrote that the repression in Syria is being carried out by a Syrian contingent of the IRGC that has been operating in Syria, and has been responsible over time for military, intelligence, and logistical assistance to Hizbullah in Lebanon. With the outbreak of protest in Syria, the IRGC dispatched special emissaries, commanders of the Basij (volunteer forces of the IRGC that also repressed the uprising in Iran), to Damascus to help Assad.3

 

The Syrian security organizations, despite their ongoing, clandestine activities against opposition groups over the years, have avoided any hands-on attempts at repression of the wide-scale protests, which erupted simultaneously at several locales. Instead, here, too, they turned to Tehran, which was quite natural in light of the longstanding security cooperation between them. Moreover, a study by the International Crisis Group, which offers an in-depth analysis of the roots, characteristics, and trends of the protest (“the regime’s downfall is almost certain”), quotes a Syrian security official’s assertion that over time Iran has spread networks throughout the Syrian security organizations: “Iran has a big say in what is going on here more generally. They have made serious inroads with this president, unlike his father.”4

The Internet site of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria reported that the bodies of five Hizbullah activists were conveyed to Baalbek from Syria after they were shot by the Syrian army while firing at Syrian protesters.5 The opposition has posted numerous videos on the Internet where it claims that Hizbullah operatives took part in firing at the Syrian population,6 mocking Nasrallah’s statements that “Hizbullah is not involved in the events.”7 Videos also show protesters burning Hizbullah and Iranian flags and shouting “Allah Akbar,” “The people want the regime to fall,” and “No Iran and no Hizbullah.”8 Posters and books of Nasrallah were also set alight.9

Beyond the active involvement of Iranian elements in the repression, it was reported that Iran also provided Syria with logistical equipment, sniper rifles of its own make, and advanced Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN)10 devices for disrupting Internet activity, which allow the identification of activists who converse by phone or use the social networks on the Internet. Iran has accumulated great experience in the use of such equipment for monitoring sensitive events (religious and national holidays, student days, various remembrance days), the mapping and detention of activists, the infiltration of social networks, the blocking of sites, and the dismantling of cellular networks. Recently, after an in-depth inquiry using open sources, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined that Iran had not been sold equipment for “monitoring, filtering, and disrupting information and communications flows.” It also stated, among other things, that while NSN had in the past sold Iran technology for its cellular telephone network, “Iran’s need to obtain monitoring and filtering technology from outside sources may be lessening as it develops indigenous censorship and surveillance capabilities, possibly in response to sanctions against Western companies selling it sensitive technology.”11 If so, and given the longstanding security cooperation in sensitive security areas, it was easier for Iran to transfer such systems to Syria (which could also use them for surveillance of Israel).

After the repression of the protest in Iran, some Iranians boycotted NSN and even sued it for selling listening and monitoring equipment to the Iranian government, which led to the arrest of many Iranians who used cellular phones and social networks. The company admitted that in 2008 it had sold Iran a monitoring system called the Lawful Interception Management System (LIMS).12 Nobel Prize winner and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, who is subject along with her family to persecution by the Iranian authorities, accused NSN of funneling equipment, technology, and software for monitoring cellular phones and SMS messages to the repressive Iranian regime, which used these for the surveillance and detention of demonstrators.13 Some Tehran residents have vandalized Nokia advertisements and splashed them with green paint – the color of the reform movement in Iran.14

Reformist elements in Iran have criticized Iranian aid to the Syrian president. The reformist religious figure Ayatollah Dastgheib condemned the outsourcing of “the national wealth of Iran to Syria and wasting it on the repression of the Syrian people, instead of providing this aid to the Iranian people themselves.”15

Pointing the Finger at Iran

As information accumulated on involvement by Iran and/or elements under its sponsorship in repressing the Syria protest, the European Union on June 23 imposed sanctions against the leadership of the IRGC and certain Syrian security elements. The Council of the European Union charged that IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari, Al-Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani, and IRGC deputy commander for intelligence Hussein Taeb “were involved in providing equipment and support to help the Syria regime suppress protests in Syria.”16

On June 29, the U.S. Treasury Department named Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam and Ahmad-Reza Radan, chief and deputy chief, respectively, of the LEF, pursuant to Executive Order 13572 of April 2011 on “Blocking Property of Certain Persons with Respect to Human Rights Abuses in Syria.”17 “In April 2011, Radan traveled to Damascus, where he met with Syrian security services and provided expertise to aid in the Syrian government’s crackdown on the Syrian people. The LEF has provided material support to the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate and dispatched personnel to Damascus in April to assist the Syrian government in suppressing the Syrian people.”18 In September 2010, the U.S. listed Radan in the annex to Executive Order 13553, which targets those responsible for or complicit in serious human rights abuses in Iran since the June 2009 disputed presidential elections. In June 2011, the U.S. designated the LEF and Moghadam pursuant to this executive order.19

Wall-to-Wall Support

Along with military, technical, and intelligence assistance, Iran has sided with Syria on the political-propaganda level and supported its policy and responses to growing Western pressure. A French newspaper, Les Echos, quoted the Center for Strategic Research, which is under Khamenei’s authority, as saying Iran had transferred emergency equipment to Syria totaling about $6 billion.20 Essentially, Iran is fully committed to helping Syria. The most senior Iranian echelon, including the supreme leader and the president, has backed the Syrian president’s legitimacy and handling of the crisis. Iran also harshly criticized “the hypocritical involvement of the West, particularly the United States, in Syria’s internal affairs,” while repeatedly emphasizing that the disturbances in Syria, which “were instigated by the West,” were fundamentally different from the “Islamic awakening” throughout the Middle East and North Africa and were aimed at weakening the resistance camp. The Iranian press, too, was harnessed to the propaganda effort, and its headlines trumpeted support for Assad while praising his “wisdom” and “brave and clever” speeches, which were highly reminiscent of Ahmadinejad’s speeches after the elections, with their disdain toward the opposition and blaming mainly foreign elements for the protests and for attempting to stir up sedition.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated:

The events in Syria are fundamentally different in nature from those occurring in the other countries of the Middle East. By trying to simulate in Syria the events that occurred in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Libya, the Americans are trying to create problems for Syria, a country that is on the path of resistance….The Islamic awakening in the regional countries is anti-Zionist and anti-American in nature….America and Israel are clearly involved in the events in Syria….The movement of the people of Bahrain is similar to the movement of the people of Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, and there is no sense in distinguishing between these similar movements.21

Ahmad Musavi, Iran’s ambassador to Syria, praised the Iranian media in general and Iran’s Mehr news agency in particular for giving

appropriate and accurate media coverage to the events occurring in the region….The news agencies that are connected to world imperialism and Zionism are distorting the reality of the revolutions in the region. The slaughter and repression of civilians in Bahrain, and the slaughter of the Syrian police and security people, gets no coverage in the Western media or in the regional media that are controlled by the West. Instead, mendacious films are disseminated in the world concerning the developments in Syria.22

Other Iranian officials and media also emphasized these claims.23

On July 10 the IRGC published an announcement condemning the visit of U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford to the city of Hama, claiming that, in light of the sensitive situation in Syria and the attempt by different groups in the country to launch a national dialogue, this visit constituted gross interference in Syria’s internal affairs. The IRGC accused the United States of taking a misleading and hypocritical position in a desperate attempt to rehabilitate its status in the region, which had eroded thanks to its protracted involvement and hegemonic policy. The IRGC called the U.S. ambassador’s visit to Hama a “dangerous step” intended to “normalize” foreign involvement in the internal affairs of other countries and compromise the national sovereignty of governments.24

 

Iran also tried to get Russia to help calm the winds in Syria. At the end of June, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov met with the Iranian ambassador in Russia to discuss the situation in Syria, at the ambassador’s request. The Iranian ambassador also met with Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin.25 The Russian Foreign Ministry announced that the two sides called to stabilize the situation there as quickly as possible.26

Restructuring Relations in the Fragile Turkey-Iran-Syria Triangle

Turkey’s evolving critical attitude toward the events in Syria has fostered Turkish-Iranian tensions. Iran, for its part, is critical of Turkey’s position and its disapproval of Assad’s conduct, and several Iranian editorials and opinion articles have called on Turkey to “return to the resistance camp” in the region.27This criticism has again brought to the surface the longstanding rivalry between Iran and Turkey, and particularly Tehran’s fear of Turkey’s membership in NATO and the alliance’s large bases in Turkey. Recently Iran’s Majlis (Parliament) Research Center stated that NATO’s defense shield in Turkey should be viewed as a threat to Iran.28

 

Some of the articles, including in the newspaper Kayhan, which reflects the view of Khamenei, have also implicitly threatened Turkey that if it does not change its new anti-Syrian stance, it is likely to find itself encountering both domestic and foreign criticism and challenges from various religious and ethnic groups that seek good relations with Iran, Syria, and Iraq, and facing a decline in its regional status. It has also been written in the Iranian press that, given the Arab peoples’ bitter memory of the Ottoman period, Turkey cannot play an independent role in the Islamic world and must cooperate with Iran rather than adopt the positions of the West.29 At the time of the Turkish foreign minister’s mid-July visit to Iran that focused on the crisis in Syria, the IRGC’s weekly newspaper harshly criticized Turkey for “standing with the United States.” The paper warned that if Turkey, which thinks Assad’s fall would promote its regional aspirations, should continue on the course of escalation, Iran would be forced to choose between Turkey and Syria and “undoubtedly the strategic interests and ideology of Iran will lead to the choice of Syria.”30In a similar spirit, a commentary carried by the semiofficial Fars news agency, which is identified with Ahmadinejad, accused the Turkish government under the headline: “Did the Turkish People Expect Their Government to Implement the Policy of the United States and Israel?”31

The Iranian Khabar-online site wrote that the expansion of Turkey’s influence in the Middle East was carried out in full agreement with (Sunni) Saudi Arabia, and that the media clash between Prime Minister Erdogan and President Shimon Peres, which made Erdogan the “Rambo” of the Middle East, along with the flotilla to Gaza, were aimed at enabling Turkey to augment its influence in the Arab world. These events gave Turkey an opportunity to intervene in the revolutions in the Arab countries, including the one in Syria, to the discomfiture of Iran.32

The ongoing protest in Syria has indeed recalibrated the delicate triangle of relations, which had not yet fully developed in any case, between Ankara, Damascus, and Tehran and proves, again, that the movement of the Middle Eastern tectonic plates under the impact of the protest wave has not yet ended.

Prospects

The Iranian assistance to Syria also accords with the emergence of the Sunni-Shiite divide, as represented mainly by Saudi Arabia and Iran. These two are waging a kind of Cold War across the Middle East (with Iran also supporting the Shiite rebels in Yemen and Bahrain). Thus, just as Saudi Arabia aided the Bahraini kingdom, where a Sunni minority rules over a Shiite majority, Iran has assisted its Alawite-Shiite ally Syria.

Hizbullah, whose situation and stances constitute a sort of mirror image of its patron, Iran, has sided – as dictated by Iran – with the repressive Syrian regime. As a result, it is forfeiting much of the esteem it had built up among the Syrian population (and elsewhere in the Arab world) by fighting Israel. Nasrallah has sided with the protesters and against the regime in (Shiite-majority) Bahrain, Libya, and Egypt.

Unlike developments in Tunisia and Egypt, the events in Syria are likely to have far-reaching repercussions on the reshaping of the Middle East. The regime stands at a strategic crossroad regarding almost all the core issues of the Middle East and is also part of a broader struggle which constitutes another element of the Sunni-Shiite Cold War. Damascus also plays a direct (and negative) influence on the peace process and provides a safe haven to all the rejectionist Palestinian terror organizations (Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, PFLP-GC) that oppose the Palestinian Authority and the peace process. Moreover, Syria is a fundamental member-state of the resistance camp, which is led by Iran and is central to the division between the anti-American axis and the moderate Arab camp. Finally, in general, Damascus has maintained a unique status in the Arab world as the last of the Baath regimes, and in having enjoyed good relations with Turkey and Iran, the two powerful, non-Arab, former-empire actors in the region that are striving to regain their old status.

Damascus also occupies a pivotal point between the old Middle Eastern order and the new order that Iran is seeking to shape in keeping with its worldview. Syria’s special status in opposing a Pax Americana (a minority position among the Arab states) and having good relations with the two past superpowers of the Middle East – (Ottoman) Turkey and (Persian) Iran – is what gives it a key role in the region and perhaps explains (in part) the West’s reluctance to take a clear position, instead preferring a wait-and-see attitude toward the ongoing violent repression in Syria.

The departure of Assad, the last of the brave Arab leaders who defy the West, and coming on the heels of Saddam Hussein’s downfall, would likely herald the end of the era of Arab nationalism and facilitate the formation of a new Arab and/or Islamic identity. In the shadow of the growing assertiveness of (Shiite) Iran and (Sunni) Turkey, both of which seek a great-power role, the Arab world finds itself divided and lacking any guiding paradigm as the old order falls apart.

The repression of the protest in Syria has cut into the unity of the resistance camp, which has seen a central political component – Syria – undermined. This camp has recently absorbed a number of shocks (along with some achievements that may turn out to be temporary, such as Hizbullah’s taking control of the Lebanese government). Senior figures in Hizbullah have been implicated for the Hariri assassination. Hamas has been harmed by Assad’s attempt to exploit the Palestinians via the Nakba and Naksa events as a means to divert attention from Syrian domestic repression. And secular Palestinian organizations such as the PFLP-GC that are sheltered in Damascus have found themselves on the defensive as residents of the Palestinian refugee camps have protested the use of their relatives and friends as Nakba and Naksa tools.

With Syria being the main conduit for missiles and rockets to Hizbullah in Lebanon, Assad’s fall might be expected to particularly impact on continued logistical support to the movement. However, the IRGC’s aerospace commander, Amir Ali Hagizadeh, who was its main spokesman during live-fire exercises for ground-to-ground missiles, rocket artillery, and surface-to-sea missiles in July,33 said Iran has devoted much effort and planning to ensure that, once hostilities broke out, it would be able to supply Hizbullah with all the missiles it needed without relying on other countries.34

Dangerous Cards

At present it appears that Iran is mobilizing all the means at its disposal to protect its strategic ally Syria. At the same time, it is probably already examining ways to retain its influence over a post-Assad Syria, and it may come to view Iraq, after U.S. forces withdraw, as a fitting alternative for its ongoing subversive activity in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.

During a July visit to Iraq by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, he again emphasized his great concern over the growing Iranian involvement in arming the extremist Shiite militias with EFPs, explosively formed penetrators. In a similar vein, Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Iran was directly involved in assistance to terror groups that are causing the deaths of American soldiers.35 The increased Iranian aid to the Shiite insurgents in Iraq could be aimed at signaling to the United States the likely price of the loss of Syria. It should be emphasized that in the past, too, Iran boosted assistance to the Iraqi insurgents in line with political developments in the region.

Iran may still have more cards to play when it comes to helping Syria. It tried to heat up the Israeli-Syrian border twice – on Nakba Day on May 15 and again on Naksa Day on June 5 – in a bid to divert attention from the Syrian domestic arena. Recently, Lebanon, whose government is under Hizbullah influence, has been raising the issue of the maritime oil and gas fields claimed by Israel, perhaps in an attempt to foment a regional crisis that would, again, divert attention from the repression in Syria.

A Second (and Last) Opportunity for Obama

The U.S. president again faces an opportunity to intervene and influence the reshaping of the Middle East. This could involve removing or at least greatly weakening the heart of the “Axis of Evil” – Iran – which leads the camp of those opposing U.S. policy in the region and seeking to undermine the moderate Arab states (and the Palestinian Authority).

The U.S. administration, which already squandered one opportunity to influence the reshaping of the Middle East when it failed to support the protesters in Iran, is again showing hesitancy precisely when it has another golden opportunity to overturn a main domino of the resistance camp, which would negatively affect Iran and Hizbullah. Obama’s statement that Assad is “losing legitimacy in the eyes of his people” represents another step on the way to changing the U.S. position toward the Syrian regime.36

Jackson Diehl, writing in the Washington Post on June 20, concludes: “The damage to U.S. interests from a UN resolution on Palestine would pale compared to the consequences of an Iranian-backed victory by Assad in Syria or the failure of NATO in Libya.”37

*     *     *

Notes

1. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303763404576420080640167182.html.

2. http://www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient/article/2011/07/05/le-jeu-de-l-iran-dans-les-crises-en-libye-et-en-syrie_1544919_3218. http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=fvfom0&s=3.html.

3. http://www.mihan.net/press/?p=3009.

4. “Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East, VII: The Syrian Regime’s Slow-Motion Suicide,” Middle East/North Africa Report No. 109, July 13, 2011.

5. http://tinyurl.com/65k6npk.

6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpbbzqhvD6g&NR=1.

7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3109SWBMJU&NR=1.

8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwZqAl3vvrc; http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XKujiqeavvM.

9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFKF5_TvK2o&NR=1.

10. Ha’aretz, June 22, 2011.

11. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11706r.pdf.

12. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/24/iranian-sues-nokia-siemens-networks.

13.  http://www.france24.com/en/20100316-nobel-laureate-says-siemens-nokia-help-iran-regime.

14. http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=fvfom0&s=3.

15.  http://www.kaleme.com/1390/04/02/klm-62733.

16. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:164:0001:0003:EN:PDF.

17. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-05-03/pdf/2011-10910.pdf.

18. http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1224.aspx.

19. http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-24839.pdf.

20. Reuters, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/15/iran-syria-aid_n_899840.html.

21.  http://www.leader.ir/langs/FA/index.php?p=contentShow&id=8267.

22. http://www.mehrnews.com/fa/newsdetail.aspx?NewsID=1346938.

23. Iran’s former ambassador to China, Dr. Javad Mansouri, said:

Several Western states are trying to ride the popular protest wave and exploit it as a cover for settling old accounts in certain places. Specifically, this is the case in Syria, where the role of the external stimuli is much greater than the role of the popular protests against the government. In other words, unlike other countries of the region, the popular nature of the uprising in Syria is overshadowed by external players that have been seeking to topple the Syrian government for a long time…. The situation in Syria is quite different than the situation in other countries of the region because the United States and Israel are directly interfering in the current crisis, but in other countries, the role of the people has been more important from the very beginning.

http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=243284.

The IRGC’s bulletin wrote:

Imperialism was surprised and, fearing the Islamic awakening in the region, tried to contain it. After the fall of the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, the West understood that it had to manipulate the events so they would serve its own interests. Thus Syria became the natural candidate for this activity. First they infiltrated money and satellite media into Syria, then they engaged in incitement and agitation. They armed Syrian groups and stirred up armed clashes between the citizens….The Zionist regime, which had experienced failures against Hizbullah and Hamas and blamed Iran and Syria for these failures because of their support for these organizations, wanted to create a crisis so as to weaken the resistance camp in the region and pressure Bashar Assad to carry out significant reforms in Syria and, among other things, sever his ties with Iran, end the assistance to Hizbullah, and expel the Palestinian organizations. Indeed, an international front was established to promote the plot against Syria, a front that was composed of the United States, world Zionism, the March 14 movement, “the mercenary forces of the King of Jordan,” the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC], and the Saudi Bandar bin Sultan. Iran’s posture toward the events in Syria was the most appropriate and wise one because there is no real revolution in Syria but instead a fabricated crisis. If it had been a real revolt of the Syrian people to uproot corruption, dictatorship, and dependency on the United States and the Zionists, Iran would have had no fear of supporting such a revolution. But the Assad regime is interested in reforms and, compared to the other regimes, its dependency on the United States and on Zionism is at the most minimal level possible.

http://www.sobhesadegh.ir/1390/0506/p03.pdf

The conservative newspaper Siyasat-e Ruz wrote:

The United States is trying to weaken Iran by exerting pressure on Syria through various tactics; on the one hand the United States is interested in engaging Iran through dialogue on the nuclear issue, but at the same time it is trying to isolate it by intervening in Syria’s internal affairs.

Siyasat-e Ruz, July 4, 2011.

24. http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9004190714.

25. http://www.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/0/BAC189BDEA5CAC10C32578CB005AB93B.

26.  http://bit.ly/qvjHeM.

27. Hemayat, June 27, 2011.

28. http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9004250674.

29. http://www.kayhannews.ir/900406/2.htm#other200.

30. http://www.sobhesadegh.ir/1390/0508/p08.pdf.

31. Fars news agency, June 23, 2011.

32. Khabar-online, June 25, 2011.

33. http://jerusalemcenter.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/does-iran%E2%80%99s-latest-military-exercise-signal-a-new-defense-doctrine.

34. http://www.iribnews.ir/Default.aspx?Page=MainContent&news_num=291683.

35. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jul/14/white-house-admits-war-with-iran.

36. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/07/12/501364/main20078858.shtml.

37. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-is-obama-so-tough-on-israel-and-timid-on-syria/2011/06/19/AGmcB3bH_story.html.