U.S. officials say Iran is dispatching increasing numbers of trainers and advisers - including members of its elite
Quds Force - into Syria to help crush anti-government demonstrations that are threatening to topple Iran's most important ally in the region, The Washington Post reported.
The influx of Iranian manpower is adding to a steady stream of aid from Tehran that includes not only weapons and riot gear but also sophisticated surveillance equipment that is helping Syrian authorities track down opponents through their Facebook and Twitter accounts, the sources said. Iranian-assisted computer surveillance is believed to have led to the arrests of hundreds of Syrians seized from their homes in recent weeks.
The United States and its allies long have accused Iran of supporting repressive or violent regimes in the region, including Syria's government, the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Officers from Iran's notorious Quds Force have played a key role in Syria's crackdown since at least mid-April, said the U.S. and allied officials. They said U.S. sanctions imposed against the Quds Force in April were implicitly intended as a warning to Iran to halt the practice.
The Quds Force is a unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for operations outside the country.
While the size of the Iranian contingent in Syria is not known, the numbers of advisers has grown steadily in recent weeks despite U.S. warnings, according to the U.S. and allied officials.
The Obama administration mentioned the role of the Quds Forces in announcing two sets of sanctions imposed against Syrian government officials in the past month.
The mass riots have begun in the Syrian city Dera'a from mid-March. The impetus for them was the arrest of a group of schoolchildren who had written the anti-government slogans on the walls. People appeared in the streets demanding to release the adolescents. The troops entered the city to suppress the anti-government protests. They used tanks and artillery to disperse mass demonstrations.
Later, the protest spread to several other regions of the country, particularly in the city of Latakia, Baniyas, Homs, Hama and some suburbs of Damascus. The demonstrators demanded to conduct political reforms and democratization of political life in the country.
Even after the government announced the program of broad reforms in Syria, opposition members' protests continue. In particular, the state of emergency, introduced since 1963, was cancelled in the country. It was one of the main demands of the opposition