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Iran will support ally 'to the end'

By Agencies in Teheran, Iran and Dubai, UAE | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-06 07:06

Strike on Damascus aims to blunt Teheran influence: military chief

Iran will support Syria "until the end" in the face of possible US-led military strikes, the chief of Iran's elite Quds Force unit was quoted on Thursday by the media as saying.

Iran is Syria's main regional ally, and some analysts believe a wider goal of US President Barack Obama's determination to launch a strike against Damascus is to blunt Teheran's growing regional influence and any consequent threat to Washington ally Israel.

"The aim of the United States is not to protect human rights ... but to destroy the front of resistance (against Israel)," Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani was quoted as saying.

"We will support Syria to the end," he added in a speech to the Assembly of Experts, the body that supervises the work of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He did not elaborate on the nature of the support, and Iran has constantly denied allegations by Western powers that it has sent military forces to support Syrian government forces.

Meanwhile, Khamenei said on Thursday the US was using a chemical attack in Syria's civil war as a pretext to interfere in the country and warned it would suffer loss from any intervention.

"In the case of Syria, the chemical attack is a pretext. ... The Americans try to play with words and pretend that they've become involved in this case for humanitarian aims," Khamenei told a meeting of the Assembly of Experts, a state body.

"I believe the Americans are making mistakes in Syria, and they have felt the impact and will certainly suffer loss," he said in the speech, of which the text was published on his official website.

Khamenei's words indicate no let-up in Iran's considerable support for Assad. But Iran's response to the purported chemical attack in recent days hints at disagreement within the corridors of power.

In contrast to military commanders, the government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has condemned the use of chemical weapons and warned against military strikes in Syria, but not apportioned blame for the attack.

A year ago, the chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said that members of the Quds Force foreign operations unit were in Syria but only to provide the Syrian government "counsel and advice".

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan, meanwhile, ruled out sending troops or weapons to Syria.

"The Syrians do not need us to provide them with weapons because they have a defensive anti-aircraft system themselves," he was cited in the local media as saying.

Rouhani said Iran will do "everything to prevent" an attack on the Syrian government, according to extracts from statements he made before the Assembly of Experts published in the media.


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