Tuesday, 12 February 2013

"Iran and Hezbollah build militia networks in Syria, officials say"

US and Middle East officials say Iran is seeking to protect interests in Syria if Assad falls or leaves Damascus

Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanese proxy, are building a network of militias inside Syria to preserve their interests in the event that President Bashar al-Assad's government falls or is forced to retreat from Damascus, according to US and Middle Eastern officials.

The militias are fighting alongside Syrian government forces. But officials believe Iran's long-term goal is to have reliable operatives in place in the event that Syria fractures into separate ethnic and sectarian enclaves.

A senior Obama administration official cited Iranian claims that Tehran was backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria. "It's a big operation," the official said. "The immediate intention seems to be to support the Syrian regime. But it's important for Iran to have a force in Syria that is reliable and can be counted on." More

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