April 14, 2011
Iran helping Syria to crack down on protestors
Israel let the cat out of the bag a couple of weeks ago by leaking the news that Hezb’allah and Iran was helping Syria handle anti-regime protestors.
Now the US government has confirmed some of this information, adding that Iran is also looking for an opening to help Shiite opposition groups in the Gulf.
Wall Street Journal:
Iran is secretly helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad put down pro-democracy demonstrations, according to U.S. officials, who say Tehran is providing gear to suppress crowds and assistance blocking and monitoring protesters’ use of the Internet, cellphones and text-messaging.At the same time, communications intercepted by U.S. spy agencies show Tehran is actively exploring ways to aid some Shiite hardliners in Bahrain and Yemen and destabilize longstanding U.S. allies there, say U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. Such moves could challenge interests of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and inflame sectarian tensions across the Middle East, they say.
“We believe that Iran is materially assisting the Syrian government in its efforts to suppress their own people,” said an Obama administration official.
U.S. officials say they don’t see Iran as the driving force behind popular revolts against longtime U.S. allies in the Mideast, and caution they have no concrete evidence that Iran is providing or preparing large-scale financial or military support to opposition elements in Bahrain or Yemen.
Rather, the White House has worried that protracted political turmoil could provide an opening for additional influence by Tehran, whose nuclear ambitions are a concern to the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Middle East.
It would make sense for Hezb’allah to assist their patron Assad in cracking down on protestors. The terrorist group may even be more reliable than the Syrian army or secret police. They owe much to Assad who has facilitated the transfer of weapons from Iran for many years, while offering their leaders protection and sanctuary from Israeli efforts to assassinate them.
More worrisome is Iranian meddling in Bahrain, which Ryan Mauro reports may presage a proxy war between Iranian backed Shias and US-friendly governments in the region. Iran can cause a lot of trouble with very little effort. However, as Mauro points out, most indigenous Shia groups in Bahrain have rejected Iranian help and wish to see a peaceful transition to more rights for Shias in the Gulf.
Not all Shias in Bahrain have rejected Iranian aid, however, and it seems pretty clear that Iran will do anything they can to destabilize American allies in the region.