Iran said to be aiding in Syria crackdown

G8 ‘appalled at’ violence; Kara says Syrian opposition asked for Israel’s help, but PM refused.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian Revolutionary Guard 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran has sent training staff and advisers, including members of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, to help Syria crack down on its 10-week-old popular uprising, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
The assistance reportedly includes not only arms and ant-riot gear, but advanced surveillance equipment to help Damascus monitor citizens’ Facebook and Twitter accounts, the newspaper reported, quoting two US officials and a foreign diplomat.
RELATED:'At least 8 killed as anti-gov't protests sweep Syria'Turkey urges Syria to impose reforms as protests rageThe diplomat said the military trainers were brought to Damascus to instruct Syrians in methods the Iranians used in crushing its Green Movement after the 2009 presidential election.
Syrian security forces shot dead 12 people on Friday during protests in 91 locations nationwide, human rights activists said.
Leaders at a Group of Eight meeting in France said they were “appalled” at the killing of peaceful protesters, and demanded an immediate end to the use of force.
In a communique issued at the G8 summit, the leaders of the seven Western powers, plus Russia, called on Damascus to respond to the Syrian people’s “legitimate demands for freedom.”
“Unfortunately, I regret to say that Syrian leaders have made a formidable step back.
In these conditions, Syria no longer has our trust,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, speaking at the summit in Deauville, Normandy.
The language of the final draft was watered down, however, to remove an explicit proposal to act against Damascus in the UN Security Council. The shift in language to a vaguer threat of “further measures” appeared to be driven by Russia, which has a Security Council veto and has taken a softer line than Western states against autocratic Arab leaders.
Rights groups estimate thatat least 1,000 people have been killed over 10 weeks of demonstrations against President Bashar Assad.
“There are no grounds to consider this issue [Syria] in the UN Security Council,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters, as the summit wound down in Deauville. He said a draft resolution circulated to the 15- nation council on Wednesday by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal was “untimely and damaging,” adding: “We will not even read the text.”
The draft resolution could also face a Chinese veto.
The Syrian National Organization for Human Rights said Friday’s killings took place in rural districts around Damascus, in southern Syria, the northwestern province of Idlib, the coast and the central city of Homs.
Security forces also clamped down on protesters in the northeastern city of Deir al-Zor, activists and residents said.
Deir al-Zor province accounts for most of Syria’s 380,000-barrel- per-day oil output.
“God is greater than the oppressor... Death rather than humiliation,” thousands shouted on Friday in the Damascus suburb of Hajar al-Aswad.
Activists said demonstrations continued into the night in Hama. Tens of thousands of people marched earlier in the city, where an army assault to crush an armed Islamist uprising in 1982 killed up to 30,000 people.
The biggest demonstrations typically occur on Fridays after Muslim prayers, and they have also generally been the deadliest.
But the bloodshed last week appeared to be on a lesser scale than witnessed recently.
Human-rights activists said protests flared in the eastern cities of Abu Kamal, where people burned pictures of Lebanese-Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who this week threw his weight behind Assad.
Ten weeks into the unrest, protests have failed to gain a critical mass, as security forces prevent mass rallies, and Damascus and Aleppo have yet to witness big demonstrations.
The Ba’ath Party suppresses any dissent and there is no unified opposition structure to lead the popular movement.
But opposition activists in exile will meet in Turkey this week to help coordinate the campaign.
Representatives of protesters in Syria will also attend the three-day conference in Antalya, which starts on Wednesday, they said.
Khalaf Ali Khalaf, a member of the meeting’s secretariat, told Reuters the aim was to “coordinate the democratic effort, instead, for example, of talking individually with countries that support the uprising.”
He said the conference will select representatives to help raise international pressure on Syria, but will not form a transitional council similar to that set up in Libya by rebels fighting Muammar Gaddafi.
Among the 300 participants will be human-rights campaigner Ammar Qurabi, Radwan Ziadeh, head of the Damascus Center for Human Rights, Abdel Razzaq Eid of the Damascus Declaration opposition umbrella group, Syrian university professors in Europe and the United States, and Muslim Brotherhood members.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted on Friday as saying Assad should deliver “shock therapy” reforms to end bloody protests.
Davutoglu’s words are among the most forceful by a Turkish official, highlighting Turkey’s growing concern over a crisis that has sparked world outrage.
In comments carried by the state-run Anatolia news agency, Davutoglu said he believed it was possible for Syria to end the unrest, but that the “treatment” should feature “shock therapy,” including reforms of the economy, security, politics and the judiciary.
The comments, made in an interview with a Turkish television channel late on Thursday, were repeated in a separate interview with The New York Times.
MK Ayoub Kara, deputy minister for the development of the Galilee and the Negev, on Saturday said that members of the Syrian opposition had turned to him to ask for Israel’s help in stopping the Assad regime’s violence.
Kara said he asked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to use his influence to exert pressure on Assad, but the prime minister refused. The Likud lawmaker made the statements at a cultural event in Beersheba.
“The Syrian opposition asked for my help because of my connections.
They wanted me to go to the government for help – that we would ask the UN, the US and the EU to go against Assad. I brought the request before the government, but they refused to interfere,” Kara said.
Kara, the only Druse member of the cabinet, said he had forwarded a government message to Turkey indicating that Israel would not prevent Ankara from delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza through the Red Cross.
Kara has boasted in the past of his extensive contacts throughout the Arab world, and in 2009 said he had visited Syrian officials from Assad’s ruling Alawite sect in Washington.
Kara said he is often approached by Arab officials with various requests, and at other times acts according to his own initiatives.
Reuters contributed to this report.