Secret Hand in Syria Crackdown: Iran

And it may soon help protesters in Bahrain, Yemen
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2011 11:50 AM CDT
Secret Hand in Syria Crackdown: Iran
A picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency shows Syria's President Bashar al-Assad , right, welcoming his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Damascus airport on Sept. 18, 2010.   (AP Photo/ Sana-HO)

(Newser) – Iran has a hand in the revolutions currently sweeping the rest of the Arab world. In Syria, Iran is secretly assisting President Bashar al-Assad to quell the pro-democracy demonstrations, US officials say. But in Bahrain and Yemen, Iran is looking to aid Shiite protesters, thus destabilizing the countries—both US allies. US officials appear to be releasing the information, gathered by spy agencies, in a bid to show Iran that it is being watched, the Wall Street Journal reports. "We're keeping an eye on these activities," a White House official tells the paper.

Tehran has provided crowd-suppressing equipment to Syria, and has given the government advice on how to monitor or block protesters' communication through the Internet and cell phones; meanwhile, Iranian officials are discussing the possibility of sending cash or weapons to the opposition in Bahrain and Yemen. Right now, says a US official, Iranian "aspirations far outpace their ability to project their influence into these places"—but further meddling could exacerbate sectarian tension in the Middle East. (Read more Bashar al-Assad stories.)

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