Last updated: 28 January, 2012

Syrian opposition says Iran plays role in crackdown

The opposition Syrian National Council on Saturday accused Iran of “participation” in the bloody crackdown on protests in Syria and called on Tehran to stop supporting the Damascus regime.

“The Council condemns the participation of the Iranian regime in killing Syrians who are demanding freedom and urges it to stop taking part in quelling the Syrian revolution, in order to protect the relations between the two people,” Samir Neshar, a member of the SNC’s executive committee, said at a news conference in Istanbul.

The rebel Free Syrian Army claimed Friday to have captured five Iranian military officers in the restive city of Homs and urged Tehran to “immediately” withdraw any additional troops it may have in Syria.

In a statement, the FSA said the Iranians captured “were working under the orders of the intelligence services of the Syrian air force” and had no valid papers to reside or work in Syria.

It did not specify when the officers were arrested and FSA officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

The statement urged Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to admit that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Pasdaran, were in Syria to assist the regime of Bashar al-Assad in its bid to crush a 10-month popular revolt.

The FSA, which claims to have 40,000 soldiers who have deserted the regular army, posted a video along with its statement that showed several men carrying what it said were Iranian passports.

Iran is Syria’s closest ally in the region and has stood behind the regime in Damascus despite international condemnation against the fierce crackdown that has left more than 5,000 people dead.