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Thursday, July 21, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Report details Iran's massive backing for Assad
in bid to salvage 'Shi'ite crescent'

JERUSALEM — Iran is providing weapons, technology and advisers to help President Bashar Assad quell the revolt in Syria, a report said.


The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs said Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was coordinating massive help from Teheran to stop the rising opposition campaign against Assad. In a report, the center said Iran was also providing the Assad regime with advanced equipment to monitor opposition communications.

"Iran also apparently provided Syria with advanced eavesdropping equipment which enables the identification of activists who converse by phone or use social networks on the Internet," the report, titled "How Iran Is Helping Assad Suppress Syria's Arab Spring," said.

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Authored by retired Lt. Col. Michael Segall, the report said Iran regards Syria as a vital asset in Teheran's strategy of dominating the Levant, Middle East Newsline reported. The report said the loss of Syria, regarded as the weak link in Teheran's sphere of influence, would sever the so-called Shi'ite crescent, which extends from Iran to Lebanon.

The report said IRGC has brought advisers from Iranian police and law enforcement to help Assad quell the pro-democracy demonstrations. IRGC's Quds Brigade, led by Brig. Gen. Qassam Suleimani, was also said to have brought Hizbullah fighters to Syria as well as members of Iran's Basij militia.

"With the outbreak of protest in Syria, the IRGC dispatched special emissaries, commanders of the Basij — volunteer forces of the IRGC that also repressed the uprising in Iran — to Damascus to help Assad," the report said. "Having gained experience from the violent and so far successful repression of the Iranian protest wave following the controversial elections of 2009, Iran is sending advisers from its domestic security body, the Law Enforcement Services and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to help its ally and important member of the resistance camp stay afloat."

The report said should Iran fail then the fall of the Assad regime would herald the end of Arab nationalism. Segall said this could lead to the formation of a new Arab or Islamic identity shaped by Iran and Turkey.

"In the shadow of the growing assertiveness of Shi'ite Iran and Sunni Turkey, both of which seek a great-power role, the Arab world finds itself divided and lacking any guiding paradigm as the old order falls apart," the report said.

The report said Iran fears NATO intervention in Syria, particularly via neighboring Turkey. Segall also cited reports of Hizbullah fighters killed when they fired at protesters.

Among the equipment Iran was to have relayed included logistics systems, sniper rifles and Nokia Siemens Networks meant to disrupt the Internet. Over the last decade, Iran has acquired NSN's Lawful Interception Management System, designed to monitor and disrupt communications. In all, Iran was said to have transferred $6 billion worth of equipment to Damascus.

"Essentially, Iran is fully committed to helping Syria," the report said. "At present it appears that Iran is mobilizing all the means at its disposal to protect its strategic ally Syria. At the same time, it is probably already examining ways to retain its influence over a post-Assad Syria, and it may come to view Iraq, after U.S. forces withdraw, as a fitting alternative for its ongoing subversive activity in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf."

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