“In comparison with the scale of support the Arab countries have given to opposition groups in Syria and their military presence, we haven’t taken any action there,” Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard, said during a news conference in Tehran, according to the semi-official Fars News agency. “We have only given intellectual and advisory help and transferred experience.”
The involvement of the Quds Force in Syria could be particularly worrying to Assad’s foes. The unit is tasked with carrying out overseas operations for the Revolutionary Guards, and the U.S. military frequently accused it of training and arming Shiite militias in Iraq during the peak of the sectarian conflict there. In particular, the Quds Force was accused of supplying militia groups in Iraq with explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs. The deadly bombs, which can cut through thick armor, killed many American and Iraqi soldiers.
The Syrian government, for its part, has tried to focus the attention of the international community on the regional countries helping the rebels. Syrian officials on Sunday lashed out at the role Turkey is playing in the conflict by claiming that the Turkish government had opened its airports and borders to “al-Qaeda terrorists” who have killed many Syrians and damaged public and private property in the country. The Syrian foreign ministry sent a letter of protest to the chairman of the U.N. Security Council and the U.N. secretary-general, the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.
On Friday, Pope Benedict XVI, while en route to Lebanon for a three-day visit, also criticized the regional dimensions of the conflict by saying that importing arms into Syria is a “grave sin.” He again addressed the bloody conflict in Syria, which has left more than 25,000 dead according to opposition groups, during a Sunday Mass that drew tens of thousands of people in Beirut. “Why so much horror? Why so many dead?” he asked.
The rebel fighters have said they are receiving arms from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, although officials from those countries have said little about their role. Iran, Hezbollah and Turkey have all strongly denied accusations of sending arms.
In the news conference Sunday, Jafari said that defending Syria is a “point of pride” for Iran but he stopped short of promising military intervention if Syria is attacked. If that happened, Jafari said, Iran wouldn’t necessarily invoke the bilateral security agreement between the two countries and respond immediately with military force. Iran’s actions would depend on “conditions,” he said, according to Fars News, without giving further details.