Iran Says Syria Not Seeking Military Help Against Intervention
MOSCOW, September 10 (RIA Novosti) – Damascus has not indicated any plans to seek Iran's military help in the event of a foreign intervention against Syrian governmental forces, a senior Iranian official said Tuesday, speaking about the possible invocation of an alleged Syrian-Iranian defense agreement.
"Syria can defend itself, and Syria is not asking us or Russia to join the war," Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said at a press conference in Moscow when asked about the pact.
Syria and Iran reportedly signed mutual defense pacts in 2005 and 2006, though little is known about their exact contents. Abdollahian also dodged a question about the pacts' existence at the press conference.
Russia has been supporting the Syrian government since the outbreak of civil strife in the country in 2011, supplying it with arms, cooperating on economic issues and blocking several UN Security Council resolutions that it claimed were unfairly targeting official Damascus. It has also deployed warships to the eastern Mediterranean, though Moscow has explicitly denied plans for military involvement in the Syrian conflict.
"We have information from our friends in Syria that they have a huge potential for confrontation," Abdollahian said, speaking in Persian through a Russian interpreter.
"Some think that Syria has been seriously weakened over the past two years … but the international community will be surprised in the event of a war," the official said.
He did not elaborate on the Syrian government's contingency plans, but told RIA Novosti that possible foreign attacks against Assad's forces "are unlikely to be limited" and could have "painful consequences" for the entire region.
The United States threatened limited airstrikes against Syrian targets in punishment for Syrian President Bashar Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians on August 21, though it denied plans for a ground offensive. Official Damascus has blamed the chemical attack on the rebels.
Iran has been accused of providing military support to Assad's regime ever since the outbreak of internal strife in Syria, with media and Syrian defectors claiming that the Revolutionary Guards – Iran's elite troops with a record of engagements abroad – were helping Assad's forces. Tehran has never confirmed these reports.
Iran, Syria's main strategic ally, was also reported to be supplying Assad's regime with arms and providing it with economic assistance, with total expenses estimated by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank last month at $600 million to $700 million a month.
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