"Syria is essential to the extremely negative role that Iran has been able to play in the region."
After the Arab League voted to suspend Syria because of the Assad regime's massive use of force against anti-government protesters, the head of Iran's Human Rights Council criticized Arab nations for "meddling" in Syrian affairs. Mohammad-Javad Larijani said, "Our position is that all the hands should be cut off from this kind of interference." He added, "Iran's future relations with Syria will be as strong as they are now."
In testimony before Congress, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said there are important reasons why Iran is determined to support the Syrian regime:
"Syria is essential to the extremely negative role that Iran has been able to play in the region. Take Hezbollah. The transit routes for the arms to Hezbollah are via Syria. The facilitation that Iran gives to Hezbollah to undermine the state of Lebanon, to put Israel at risk, to basically destabilize the region, it comes via Syria. Syria is basically Iran's only friend."
To help Bashar al Assad stay in power, the Iranian government is providing tools to aid him in repressing his own people, including technical assistance and equipment to monitor opposition activity on the Internet. The U.S. has imposed sanctions on the head and the deputy head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds [kods] Force and on Iran's law enforcement forces for assisting the Assad regime's brutal campaign.
Assistant Secretary of State Feltman says the Iranian government's contributions are not lost on the Syrian people:
"Our embassy reports – it also comes in through other channels – that these demonstrations across Syria, have, among other demands, an anti-Hezbollah, anti-Iran flavor to them; that the Syrian people know exactly who it is that's providing the assistance to their government to kill them, arrest them and torture them. They know it's from Iran and Hezbollah."
"Which means," Mr. Feltman said, "a change that comes about where you have a government in Syria that's a government by the consent of the people is not going to be the asset for Iran that Syria is today."
That is why, said Mr. Feltman, "an orderly democratic transition that removes Assad from power and restores stability is clearly in the United States' interests, as it is in the interests of the Syrian people: it will support our goals of promoting democracy and human rights, [and] contribute to greater stability in the region."