Senior Israeli source: Iran actively helping Syria squash demonstrations
Not only is Iran supplying equipment to the Syrian army, the source says, Iran's Revolutionary Guard also organized demonstrations against Israel on Nakba and Naksa Day.
A senior Israeli source says Iran is involved in the suppressing of the anti-regime demonstrations in Syria. Iran's Revolutionary Guard and the Al-Quds force, commanded by Gen. Qassem Suleimani, are operating throughout the country, the source says.
The source told Haaretz there is clear information on Iran's involvement in the crushing of the protests, as well as the participation of Hezbollah. Their role is not limited to shootings; Iran has also supplied equipment to the Syrian army, including sniper rifles and communications systems for disrupting the Internet in the country, the source said.
Syrian residents and media reports say men in military uniforms have been heard speaking poor Arabic or Farsi among themselves.
"In the Syrian army there is a ban on beards, so when we see military people with beards we can assume they're not part of the regular Syrian army," the source said.
Iran's involvement reached a new zenith, the source said, when the Revolutionary Guard organized the demonstrations against Israel on the Golan Heights as part of the events on Nakba Day on May 15 and Naksa Day on June 5.
"Initial reports about the presence of Iranians in the suppression of the demonstrations were from the town of Daraa, where the mass demonstrations began. However, since then it is possible to see Iran's presence in many other places," the source said.
"During the Palestinian memorial days, the Revolutionary Guard organized the busing that was required to transfer the demonstrators to the border. The initiative was not Syrian. However, the Syrian army approved the transfer of the buses to the border. On Nakba Day they [the Iranians] were also involved in the demonstrations in Lebanon, something that was not backed by Hezbollah and was opposed by the Lebanese Army. This is the reason why in Lebanon there were not confrontations and demonstrations on Naksa Day," the source said.
On Naksa Day, the Revolutionary Guard rallied Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command to send hundreds of demonstrators to the border.
"The background to the riots that broke out in the Yarmuk refugee camp the day after the demonstrations on the Golan Heights was largely the failure to pay the money that had been promised to the participants: $1,000 for each participant and $10,000 for anyone who became a 'martyr' - killed in the demonstrations," the source said.
"The families of those killed were furious with Ahmed Jibril, whom they blamed for dragging their children to a confrontation with the Israelis. Hundreds took part in the demonstration because they had not been paid. Jibril's security guards feared that he would be harmed, and they opened fire, killing 14 residents of the camp. At the time there were senior Hamas figures in the camp."
The senior Israeli source said the likelihood of similar demonstrations on the Israel-Syria border in the near future is low. He agreed with Defense Minister Ehud Barak's assessment in an interview with Haaretz two weeks ago: The process that will end the Assad regime is irreversible.
"His regime's legitimacy is lost. The harder he strikes, the more people take to the streets," the source said. He added that "in the end certain senior officers in the Syrian army - Sunnis - will reach an agreement with senior Alawi officers, providing sufficient security guarantees for the Alawi community. They will find a political solution that will extricate the country from the crisis and remove President Bashar Assad from power."
However, desertions from the Syrian army have so far been limited to the lower ranks - below battalion commanders. The senior source says there is a certain amount of resentment in the army because regular forces and "military security" forces have been used to suppress demonstrations.
He added that at Jisr al-Shoughour a "military security" force was sent to deal with the demonstrations but ran into an ambush, and 120 soldiers were killed.
"There are weapons in many places in Syria, as in all parts of the Middle East, and so far many soldiers and members of the security forces have been hit by gunfire fired by armed supporters of the opposition," the source added.
Meanwhile, as confrontations between demonstrators and the military continued in Syria yesterday, Assad announced yet another amnesty for everyone arrested in the protests. A pro-Assad demonstration took place in Damascus, but Arab media outlets noted that the participants had been forced to attend, sometimes by labor unions.