Iran will support Syria "to the end" in the face of a possible US-led military strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad as punishment for his alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians, the commander of the Islamic Republic's Quds Force vowed on Wednesday, Iranian news agency Fars reported on Thursday.
"The aim of the United States is not to protect human rights ... but to destroy the front of resistance [against Israel]," Qassem Suleimani was quoted as saying in a speech made to Iran's Assembly of Experts that supervises the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He also claimed that 95 percent of the Syrian rebels are foreigners, while the remainder are Syrian army defectors and Salafi Syrians.
On Wednesday, 170 Iranian parliamentarians released a statement in support of Assad, and warned the US and Israel against attacking Syria. The Iranian legislators warned that "any invasion of [Syria] will herald the collapse of the arrogant powers' tyrannical and cruel system," Fars reported.
"If the Islamic Republic decides, we will be ready to sacrifice our lives beside our Syrian brothers against the (front)line of infidels and oppressors," the statement said.
Despite the messages of support from Tehran, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan ruled out sending troops or weapons to Syria.
"The Syrians do not need us to provide them with weapons because they have a defensive anti-aircraft system themselves," Dehqan said.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said the United States was using a chemical attack in Syria as a pretext to interfere in the country and warned it would suffer loss from its intervention, Mehr news agency reported on Thursday.
"In the case of Syria, the chemical attack is a pretext... The Americans try to play with words and pretend that they've become involved in this case for humanitarian aims," Khamenei told the Assembly of Experts.
"I believe the Americans are making mistakes in Syria and they have felt the impact and will certainly suffer loss," he said in the speech, whose text was published on his official website.
Reuters contributed to this report.