Video: Iran sends in special force to aid Assad
The head of Iran's elite Quds force is reportedly visiting Syria to advise the regime on repressing protests and the armed resistance, as consternation grew in Western capitals yesterday about Iranian and Russian meddling in the crisis.
Members of the opposition Syrian National Council said they had reliable intelligence that Qassem Suleimani was intimately involved with President Bashar al-Assad and his ruling coterie.
"It is his second visit at least," said Radwan Ziahdeh, an executive member of the council. "The Quds force is working mainly with training, helping militias and snipers."
William Hague, the British foreign secretary, meanwhile told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov of his grave concern that Russia continues to sell arms to the government.
In a testy phone call that followed Mr Lavrov's inconclusive diplomatic mission to Syria earlier this week, the Russian replied simply that there was "nothing illegal" about the sales.
The Quds, or Jerusalem, brigade, is a special unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for external relations that reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
A British foreign office spokesman said: "We are deeply concerned by credible information that Iran is providing equipment and technical advice to help the Syrian regime quash protests in Syria. Such support is unacceptable."
Help includes riot control equipment and technical advice on "how to quash dissent and how to flood areas with security forces".
Opposition fighters of the Free Syrian Army claim to have captured 29 Iranians during the uprising and last week posted a video of five captives with their passports.
The rebels yesterday appealed for the United States to supply weapons, rocket launchers, body armour, night vision goggles and other equipment, but not boots on the ground. (© Daily Telegraph, London)