15,000 elite Iranian special-ops 'head' to Syria
According to the central Chinese daily Renmin Ribao, the Iranian special task troops are due to be deployed in Syria’s key provinces.
The Syrian opposition announced earlier that commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, advises the Syrian authorities on quashing the country’s opposition movement, the Telegraph newspaper reports.
According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the Quds Force includes 15,000 elite soldiers, who operated in Iraq and other wars on foreign soil. The Quds is reportedly in charge of training and funding Hezbollah.
The number of advisers and troops from the Quds in Syria could reach up to high hundreds or low thousands, the Telegraph reports. The newspaper said that they have set up at least one military base near the capital Damascus.
Official Tehran has neither confirmed nor refuted the news of its military participation in Syria. However, according to the head of the country’s state news agency Mehr, it is not in Iran’s plans to send any military contingent to the country.
“As far as I know there is not and will not be any program to dispatch Iranian military troops to Syria,” Reza Moghadasi told in his interview to Voice of Russia radio station.
Seyed Mohammad Marandi from the University of Tehran, speaking to RT regarding the troops, dismissed the news as “basically Western propaganda” and attributed the claims to erroneous information received by the Chinese media.
“Iran has no troops in the country. Iran has never had troops involved in the problems within Syria.”
“Someone in the Chinese media has been receiving information that is completely false,” said Marandi.
He went on to say that the Iranian government supports Assad al-Bashar’s regime, but at the same time emphasized the fact that foreign intervention goes against Iranian policy.
“Iran’s position is based on a moral principal and that is the non-interference of hegemonic powers and the non-interference of neighboring countries in Syrian affairs,” he concluded.
Israeli website debka.com announced earlier that the UK and Qatari forces are involved with the conflict in Syria, directing tactics of the opposition forces in the bloody battle for Homs. According to the website, the presence of the foreign troops topped the agenda of talks Russia's foreign intelligence chief Fradkov and Foreign Minister Lavrov held with Assad’s officials on Tuesday.
Syrian tanks and troops reportedly massed outside Homs on Friday. A large offensive is expected to hit the city and its neighborhood in the nearest future.
Up to 110 people have reportedly been killed in Homs on Thursday. As of yet, it is impossible to verify the number of casualties.
Konstantin Kosachev, the deputy chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee commented that US intervention in Damascus was a precursor to regime change in Iran. He said that after the Syrian government is “forcefully removed" he expected “something similar will start happening in Iran.”
“This is not about democracy in Syria. This is not about any internal developments in this country. This is about Syrian foreign policy because Syria is considered and is, in reality, one of the closest allies of certain countries in the region.” said Kosachev.
He underlined the West’s ulterior motives in supporting a regime change in Syria and the removal of President Bashar al- Assad.
“This is a global game; this is about geo-political and geo-economic interests and unfortunately countries like Syria are being held hostage for the geo-political and geo-economic interests of Western countries.”