Iran is intensifying its support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad by sending 150 senior Revolutionary Guards commanders to Syria to help repel opposition attempts to overthrow the government. Western intelligence officials say that Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has personally sanctioned the dispatch of the experienced officers to ensure that the Assad regime, Iran’s most important regional ally, survives the threat to its survival.
In addition, Iran has shipped hundreds of tons of military equipment, including guns, rockets, and shells, to Syria through the regular air corridor that has been established between Damascus and Tehran. Intelligence officials believe the increased Iranian support has been responsible for the growing effectiveness of the Assad regime’s tactics in forcing anti-government rebel groups on the defensive.
The Iranian operation is being masterminded by Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Guards‘ Quds force. The decision to increase Iran’s support for Syria was taken after the Syrian defense minister and Assad’s brother-in-law were killed in July. The Revolutionary Guards officers were flown to Damascus in Iranian aircraft which were given permission to fly through Iraqi air space.