The question of Iran's support for its close ally, Syria under Assad was brought to the foreground this week when the Free Syrian Army captured and detained 48 Iranian men that were traveling as pilgrims and said they were heading for a Shiite shrine close to Damascus. The Free Syrian Army claimed they were a part of a 150
strong Iranian Revolutionary Guard force that had been dispatched to Syria to fight for Bashar al-Assad's regime. Now they are saying that IRGC Commander Abedin Khorram, who was recently promoted to brigadier
, was among the pilgrims captured. Tehran, for its part has admitted that some of the pilgrims may have in fact been IRGC but they are retired now according to Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi
Iranian diplomat Saeed Jalili was in Damascus for meetings with Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday, but as I reported here, the video without audio that was released of that meeting, as with the two other videos without audio released since the July 18th decapitation attack, have done little to allay suspicions that Assad was seriously injured or killed it that attack. When that shaky evidence as to Assad well being is considered against the fact that he was a no show at the funeral of the ministers killed in that attack and for his usually televised armed forces day speech, speculation has increased about his welfare.
Then Thursday, when faced with the task of appointing a new prime minister to replace the one that had just defected to the revolution, he appointed Dr. Wael al-Halqi as Prime Minister by decree. Today they released a video of Assad swearing in al-Halqi, it was shot in the same setting as the earlier videos and like the earlier videos, there is no audio. How strange is it to watch their lips move and hear no sound! I would think that they posted a defective video except this is four videos with this same "defect." Again I have to wonder if this is not archival video from some earlier time like when al-Halqi was appointed health minister.
Whatever the state of Assad's health, there has been a desperate fight going on in Syrian's commercial capital, Aleppo between the FSA and the regime's forces since just after the explosion that heralded the start of Damascus Volcano, the FSA offensive in the capital. While the fighting around Damascus continues, with the regime continuing to shell parts of the city, and all across Syria for that matter, the main focus of the struggle has been Aleppo.
With that background, there have been a number of major meetings of Assad's allies, without Assad. Friday there was a meeting of the Russian National Security Council
to discuss the situation in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin was there, as was his PM Dmitry Medvedev, Secretary of the Security Council of Russia Nikolai Patrushev, Minister of Defence Anatoly Serdyukov, Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov and Director of the Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov. In Moscow, there is no higher level meeting. As yet we have no report back from that meeting.
The Ayattolah weights in
There also was a meeting in Tehran Thursday of what could be called the "friends of Assad" hosted by Iranian FM Salihi. Some 30 countries were said to have attended including Russia, China, Cuba, and Pakistan. the meeting was billed as a consultative meeting designed to "underlined the need for resolving the crisis through peaceful means" according to SANA, the Syrian state news agency. Just how that position squares with the bombing of apartment buildings by helicopter and killing score of civilians in Aleppo, or the shooting in the back of fleeing refugees, is anybody's guess.
The Assad regime's insistence on trying to massacre fleeing refugees led to the most intense armed clash between the Syrian Army and the Jordanian Army to date today. According to Euronews
, the exchange of fire across the border lasted over an hour this time as the Syrian forces fired on refugees in the Tel Shihab-Turra area. No causalities were reported on the Jordanian side.
This civil war is becoming an international conflict if for no other reason than the Assad forces can't seem to stop themselves from trying to murder Syrians only trying get out of harm's way and the Jordanian and Turkish forces aren't going to be idle as the Syrian Army slaughters people on their soil by firing across the border.
Furthermore, we have information on a new Syrian plot to destabilize Lebanon. According to Reuters:
A former Lebanese government minister with close ties to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be indicted for involvement in "terror plots," security sources said on Saturday.
The sources said Judge Sami Sader, the Lebanese deputy commissioner of the Military Tribunal, will indict Michel Samaha for charges including transporting explosives from Syria for use in north Lebanon. More...
As to the meeting in Tehran, we do know that this meeting continued to back Kofi Annan's six point peace plan as its preferred solution to the crisis and that they did discuss the 48 Iranian detainees. They also decried foreign interference in the Syrian crisis. That was on the front page.
But we also have a report of another meeting that took place in Tehran on Thursday. This was a meeting of the Iranian Security Council and Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, is said to have been present. It doesn't get any higher level than that in Tehran. We do have a report on that meeting via @Alexblx, who I have found to be a reliable source. It paints a very different picture of Iran's involvement in supporting Assad and has a lot more details about these so-called pilgrims. It would appear from this report that in spite of Tehran's complaints about foreign intervention, they are already very much involved in helping the regime crush the uprising and as a result of this meeting, plan to become "all in" in the defense of the Assad regime:
According to reports received from within the regime, at a meeting of the regime's Security Council in the presence of Khamenei, he emphasized the need to continue to support Syria's dictator, and said: "We have entered a phase where a retreat does not make sense and with full power we have to support Bashar by financial means, weapons and force to maintain him.
Because all our fates are tied to Syria and it will be decided by that. The fate of Hezbollah and Hamas and all ... Syria is now our front line and we have no other way than to devote all our power for this."
Accordingly, on the order of Khamenei, in a desperate attempt to prevent the inevitable fall of the Dictator of Syria, in recent weeks the number of revolutionary guards participating in the killing of Syrian people has increased in an unprecedented manner.
Forty eight guards who were arrested by the Free Syrian Army on August 4th, are part of a group of 150 Iranian Revolutionary Guards who recently flew from Tehran to Damascus with Mahan Air affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
They were being transported by three buses from the airport to their deployment locations. Transfer of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria and Lebanon, including Lebanon War in summer 2006, is done by Mahan Air.
Besides Tehran, The IRGC centers in many cities especially in Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and Tabriz have active participation in dispatching guards to Syria.
The IRGC and terrorist Qods Force frequently use a front organization called the "Cultural and Service Institute of Samen Alaeme" for the transfer of guards to Syria. This institute was established by Hassan Ashtiani, one of the leaders of the Qods Force.
Several subsidiary companies such as "Talaye Nour Hejrat" play a role in different parts of the country in organizing and dispatching guards to Syria.
The headquarter of this organization in Tehran is managed by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Hassan Ashtiani, Maleki (Deputy) and Alidusti and Yabnloui. Terrorist Qods Force agents in the Isfahan branch of this institute, include mullah Mohsen Ronnasi and Revolutionary Guards Ahmad Zeinali, Afkhami, Amir Hossein Peivandi, and Khaki. Samen Alaeme Institute has an office in Damascus where Hamid Reza Golabchian and mullah Ghazali, two of their directors, now have returned to Tehran.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards are sent to Syria through at least three methods: Direct flight to Damascus from Tehran and Isfahan; transfer to Najaf and flying from Najaf to Damascus; flying to Beirut and from Beirut to Syria by land transfer.
Following the arrest of 48 guards in Damascus, the mullahs' regime has decided to send a larger number of Revolutionary Guards to Najaf in Iraq and to fly them from there to Syria.
The Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization of the regime provides adequate cover for dispatching these terrorists as pilgrims by issuing fake documents.
On August 15th, the Revolutionary Guards News Agency (FARS) wrote in this regard: "Iran, which in the 33-day war was present alongside Hezbollah and caused the defeat of Zionists, would definitely be able to cause the defeat of Zionism-trained terrorists in Syria" FARS News Agency, referring to the solidarity rally of the Iranian resistance and the Syrian people's movement, added:
"All of Iran's enemies are now trying to bring Assad's regime to its knees, and this way to defeat the old ally of the Islamic Republic, and in the international arena make Iran face a dilemma.
This is why it seems Iran has to have a more active participation in solving Syrian crisis. "
Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)
The only part of this story I have been able to investigate so far is the role of Mahan Air
, and while it may be unfair to call it the Air American of the Iran Quds force, that is only because it also operates as a legitimate airline. On October 12, 2011 the US Treasury designated
Mahan Air an entity providing transportation, funds transfers and personnel travel services to the Qods [IRGC-QF] Force.
Getting Iraq Involved
Thursday was a busy day for the Iranian leadership. While these two meetings were taking place in Tehran, we have this report from Shafaq News out of Iraq that Iran's Saeed Jalili, fresh from his meetings in Damascus and Beirut, were he met with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, had a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad at which he demand more help from Iraq for Assad:
Iran calls Maliki for military logistic support
Thursday, 09 August 2012 11:19
Shafaq News / A source in the Iraqi government revealed on Thursday that the Secretary of Supreme National Security of Iran has demanded the Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki to support the army of the Syrian regime logistically and militarily in facing “the Free Syrian army ", referring to the Iranian plan to establish an air bridge to Syria over Iraqi airspace.
The source, who did not disclose his name told a Kuwaiti newspaper, briefed by "Shafaq News" that "the Secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security of Iran, Saeed Jalili had demanded from the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki during their talks in Baghdad to join the Iranian plan, described as (deterrent to defeat the Syrian Revolution).”
He added that "Tehran is not satisfied with the current role played by al-Maliki and wants his role to shift from the stage of political and media support to the stage of logistical support to enhance Assad regime in facing fighters of the Free Syrian army."
"The Iranian regime is pushing for a regional sectarian war and wants Iraq to be involved in it."
"Iran's deterrence plan to support Assad includes the establishment of air corridors and safe ground between Iran and Syria over Iraq and the Iraqi government to lend to the Syrian regime's hard-currency loans up to $ 5 billion and export the Iraqi oil through the Syrian territory."
"The plan includes also providing the Syrian Government with oil derivatives, open the door to in front of thousands of Iraqi Shiites of volunteer fighters, cut off Iraqi oil aid provided to Jordan, freezing trade and diplomatic relations with Ankara, providing some facilities for the fighters of the PKK Turkish opposition in northern Iraq to strengthen the war against Turkish army, developing an effective mechanism for intelligence sharing between Baghdad and Tehran and Damascus on the threats of armed groups and some governments in the region,” Jalili added.
Jalili Saad arrived in Baghdad, last Wednesday after a visit to Beirut and Damascus. More...
Notice the level of detail in these reports? That is one of the things that makes me think they have some real substance to them.
From the Assad regime we keep hearing over and over again that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are arming and, in fact, ramrodding the rebels. Similarly we even hear stories about Israel running terrorist training camps in Turkey. These same stories are repeated over and over again by Assad's minions, even here at the Daily Kos. But there is never any detail, no names, no pictures, at least no believable ones, and no locations. If they gave the location of a terrorist training camp in Turkey, reporters could investigate and confirm or deny, without that it becomes a game of believe it or don't. Its as though the mere repetition of the charges themselves will give them substance.
So again on Friday, Syria made these charges to the UN:
Syria has accused Israel, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Qatar of running military operation centers in Turkey to support the rebels by overseeing battles in Syria's 17-month conflict.
In a letter to the UN Security Council released on Friday, Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari also again blamed Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia of "harboring, funding and arming the armed terrorist groups."
"Turkey has established within its territory military operations centers that are run by the intelligence services of Israel, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Qatar," Ja'afari wrote in the letter dated August 2.
"Those centers are being used to oversee battles that are being waged by the terrorists against Syrian citizens in Aleppo and other Syrian cities and the massacres the terrorists are perpetrating after entering Syria in large numbers," he said.
So these massacres aren't being done by Damascus at all, but by Saudi Arabia and Israel working together, according to Damascus. Could those be Saudi jets, flown by Israeli pilots, that are destroying lives in Aleppo?
In a strange way, this Syrian propaganda is actually aided by the GCC members because, for their own standing on the Arab street, they need to look like they are doing much more than they really are. But FSA commanders say that the promised weapons and communications gear has never been delivered and the facts on the ground seem to bare this out in spite of the pro-Assad propaganda. For while the FSA has developed a good track record for taking out Assad's armor with IED's and RPG's, it is Assad's warplanes and helicopters that are slaughtering civilians in Aleppo and we have not heard of the FSA taking any of these out with surface-to-air missiles. I have to assume that is because they don't have any. Also the FSA said they had to pull back in Damascus and Aleppo because they were running out of ammunition. All and all, it doesn't sound like the FSA is some well-financed plot by NATO and the GCC.
The NATO counties have been making some moves of their own, although they are still refusing to provide the weapons badly needed to stop Assad's slaughter. Friday, British foreign secretary William Hague announced that Britain would be providing $7.8 million in non-lethal aid, and this morning US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed up in Istanbul promising another $5.5 million in humanitarian aid. The amount being offered by these countries is a token given that Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoglu said today that what was going on in Aleppo was a massacre.
At this point the US seems much more interested in "helping" with the transition once the Assad regime is beaten than they are in helping to beat him. This morning Clinton warned that any transition "will have to preserve the state's political institutions." Aren't those the state institutions of dictatorship? Isn't that exactly what the Syrian people are dying to get rid of?
And once again, while in Turkey, Clinton warned Damascus that using chemical weapons would be crossing a red line. Apparently its murderous assault on Aleppo and other Syrian cities with long range artillery, tanks, war planes and helicopters shelling and dropping cluster bombs on civilians is acceptable to the international community. Just don't use chemical weapons. As I have already reported in this dairy, there are many indications that the Assad regime, and its Iranian backers, are planning to use chemical weapons but to blame it on the FSA and the west. Just how Clinton will deal with that quandary remains to be seen.
In closing, I also offer this for the consideration of those that think that Bashar al-Assad is the victim of some wicked imperialist plot for regime change: Whether you think Iraq neutral or pro-Assad in this fight, clearly they are not backing the rebels. This would seem to be a strange outcome after the US spent 8 years and billions of dollars with hundred of thousands of US soldiers to overthrow Saddam Hussein and install a compliant US friendly regime. If they have been such a dismal failure at installing a puppet regime with such overt power, how can they actually be running mass uprisings in Libya and Syria?
But that is getting into the area of my next diary - barring any BREAKING NEWS.
What is clear from this storm of meetings is that Tehran and Moscow are planning on increasing their support for this regime as it continues it's desperate fight to stay in power.
Here are my related diaries on Syria:
Syria: Images from the Battle of Aleppo
Fears grow of WMD attack in Syria
UPDATED: FSA says it killed Russian General in Syria
BREAKING: Syria releases new images of Bashar al- Assad | Are they fakes?
NOT BREAKING NEWS: Just another massacre in Syria
UPDATED: Syrian prime minister defects
Syria: FSA says Iranian pilgrims really Republican Guard
Syria: Aleppo under Siege!
BREAKING: UN votes to condemn Assad Regime as Reuters posts false story on Syria
BREAKING: Kofi Annan resigns as envoy to Syria
Syria: Bashar al-Assad not heard from on Armed Forces Day!
BREAKING: Senior Syrian diplomat to Armenia defects
BREAKING: Big Explosion hits #Damascus #Syria
UPDATED: Syria's Charge D'Affaires Quits London Post
BREAKING: Ground assault on Aleppo begins!
BREAKING: Protests across Syria in spite of Assad regime violence
ALEPPO: Step outside the Matrix and witness the Horror
UPDATED: US fears massacre in #Aleppo, #Syria
BREAKING: Reports of clashes between Jordan Army & Assad's Syrian army
BRAKING: Obama stops Putin from re-arming Assad in Syria
Syria: Foreign meddling increases as crisis builds
BREAKING: Aleppo, Syria bombed with fighter jets
BREAKING: Syria issues a correction, it has no WMD to use
BREAKING: Arab League asks Assad to step down!
Bashar al-Assad: New images released as slaughter continues in Syria
no blood for oil
BREAKING: Activists report toxic gas attack in Deir ez-Zor, Syria
Glenn Greenwald sees Islamist Terrorism as main issue in Syria
Will Syria's Assad make a chemical attack in Damascus on Saturday?
BREAKING: I know where Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is!
BREAKING: Massive Fire near #Assad's Presidential Palace in #Damascus, #Syria
BREAKING: Is Syria's Bashar al-Assad dead or dying?
BREAKING: Damascus explosion kills Defense Minister, other key figures
The battle for Damascus is coming
BREAKING: General Strike in Damascus
BREAKING: Intense fighting reported in Damascus now!
BREAKING: Syrian defector spills beans as important new defection reported.
Does Syria's Assad have something on Kofi Annan?
Tremseh Massacre in Syria: What we know
BREAKING: ~227 reported massacred by Assad's forces in Tremseh, Syria today!
Syria: Is Assad regime on the verge of collapse?
BREAKING: Russian Warships reported in Syria
BREAKING: #Russia changing on #Assad but not as fast as conditions in #Syria
UN Observers say violence in Syria is ‘Unprecedented’
BREAKING: Defection of major Assad insider reported in Syria
BREAKING: WikiLeaks releases 2.4 million #Syria emails
When did "Never Again" become "Whenever?" | #Douma
BREAKING: Incredible mass rally in Aleppo, Syria today!
BREAKING: HRW releases torture report on Syria
BREAKING: Syrian General defects with 293 to Turkey
BREAKING: Items not in the MSM on Syria
My response to Phyllis Bennis: Where is the non-violent opposition in Syria?
BREAKING: Syrian Air Force attacks Douma, 10m from Damascus, thousands flee
BREAKING: As Syria Burns, UN Blows More Smoke
BREAKING: Kofi Annan to propose Syrian unity gov't sans Assad!
BREAKING: Douma, Syria under massive attack, another massacre feared
BREAKING: Another mass defection from Syrian army
BREAKING: #NATO says No War in #Syria shoot down of #Turkey jet
NATO meetup tomorrow as more defect from Syria
BREAKING: Turkey calls for NATO consult on downing of jet by Syria
BREAKING: Senior Syrian Officers Defect
UPDATED: Russia reported to be preparing to evacuate from Syria
BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria
BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
Syrian people rise up against the massacre
Another "Houla style" massacre in Syria
Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
Idlib, Syria protest today on anniversary of Kent State killings
BREAKING: Massive protests in Syria following Friday pray
Syria is bleeding
Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout