The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is in big trouble. It has killed over 200 civilians since the anti-government uprising began, but the unrest is spreading across the country. Assad has been forced to turn to Iran for help, and now, the Reform Party of Syria has just revealed that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps is overseeing the effort to save the regime.
The Reform Party of Syria, a U.S.-based democratic opposition group, says that as of Monday, April 4, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps stationed in Syria (which it said is 10,000-strong) had gained authority over the efforts to put an end to the uprising. All of the top Syrian generals now report to the IRGC operating out of a command-and-control center inside a military base in Homs Province. The Iranians are said to be closely monitoring military and security leaders, especially Allawite generals that could lead a military coup.
The RPS also says that the IRGC is responsible for footage of alleged attacks on Syrian security personnel that was shown on state television. Assad is denying that his security forces are responsible for the deaths of protesters, instead attributing it to “armed gangs.” The regime has since claimed that these “gangs” are killing both protesters and members of the security forces — a lie meant to justify the use of force and deny responsibility for the death toll.
“In essence, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps now occupies Syria and has become its de facto ruler. Syria has become the 32nd province of Iran,” Farid Ghadry of the Reform Party of Syria said in a press release.
There were strong indications of Iranian involvement in the crackdowns on the protests when the uprising first gained steam. Eyewitnesses in Daraa, where the revolution began, said that some attackers were speaking in Farsi and others said they heard southern Lebanese accents, indicating the involvement of Hezbollah. On March 21, Turkish officials intercepted a secret Iranian arms shipment to Aleppo, Syria. The huge stockpile included “60 Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles, 14 BKC/Bixi machine guns, nearly 8,000 rounds of BKC/AK-47 ammunition, 560 60-mm mortar shells, and 1,288 120-mm mortar shells.”
There is good reason for Assad to be worried enough to request Iranian intervention. The regime consists of Allawites, a minority that represents only 6 to 12 percent of the population. The 4th Armored Division, commanded by Maher Assad, Bashar’s brother, is the only unit fully staffed by Allawites. There are unconfirmed reports of clashes between Assad’s Allawite tribe and that of Ghazi Kanaan, the Interior Minister assassinated in 2006 who comes from a more powerful Allawite tribe.
Video has surfaced of a Syrian soldier in Banias who was shot by the security forces, and eyewitnesses have reported the shooting of soldiers who refused to attack protesters in the city. On April 11, 10 soldiers and officers were hung for disobeying orders to fire on citizens in Banias. State television predictably said they were killed by “armed gangs.” There have been unverifiable reports of friendly encounters between soldiers and protesters, and video has been posted of these positive interactions in Daraa. There is also footage of this happening in Inkhil and Jassem in late March.
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