Iran yesterday reassured Syrian President Bashar Assad that his country was a vital partner in the regions anti-Israel, anti-Western alliance and said an uprising could not break the bond.
Iran’s security chief, Saeed Jalili, met in Damascus with Assad, who appeared on state television for the first time since the funerals for his brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat and Gen. Dawoud Rajha, the defence minister, who were both killed in a suicide blast during a security meeting in the capital. Assad’s absence had spurred rumours that he may have left the country amid soaring violence.
Syrian state television quoted Jalili as telling Assad that ”Iran will not allow the axis of resistance, of which it considers Syria to be an essential part, to be broken in any way.” Jalili added that the 17-month uprising was not a domestic matter for Syria but a “conflict between the axis of resistance and its enemies in the region and the world.”
The “axis of resistance” refers to Iran’s alliance with Syria and Lebanon’s Shi’ite group Hezbollah, which fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006, with Iranian and Syrian support. It also includes some Palestinian terrorist groups.
Assad, for his part, told Jalili that “foreign powers” were supplying “terrorists” with weapons, a clear reference to US and other Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, which have provided aid to rebels seeking to overthrow Assad’s government.
Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, both staunch supporters of Assad, have consistently denied providing any military assistance to the Syrian government. However, rebels in Syria have long accused Iran and Hezbollah of providing aid to Assad.
Over the weekend, a rebel brigade said that 48 Iranians captured Saturday by insurgents near Damascus were militiamen on a ”reconnaissance mission.” The rebels have threatened to execute the captives. Iran says the captives are religious pilgrims, and it has demanded their release.
Yesterday, Iran called on the US and other nations backing the Syrian opposition to use their influence to win the freedom of the Iranians, and begun negotiations in Turkey for their release.