Iran Training Militia in Syria: Panetta


Washington, Aug. 15 – Iran is training a militia in Syria to defend President Bashar al-Assad’s beleaguered regime against the majority of citizens fighting to overthrow it, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.

In a Pentagon briefing Tuesday, Panetta said: “There’s now indications that they’re trying to develop or trying to train a militia within Syria to be able to fight on behalf of the regime. So we are seeing a growing presence by Iran and that is of deep concern to us.”

Iran’s interference is adding to the killing in Syria, Panetta said, and “tries to bolster a regime that we think, ultimately, is going to come down.”

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the 18-month uprising that has led to the deaths of over 20,000 people, most of them civilians slaughtered by the regime, is beginning to wear down the Syrian army.

“I actually think that’s why Iran is stepping in to form this militia, to take some of the pressure off of the Syrian military,” Dempsey said.

Other experts also believe the regime is fast losing its grip. Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said in an analysis that recent violence in Damascus and Aleppo demonstrate that “the regime's strategy for dealing with the rebellion is failing, despite its decision to employ very high levels of violence, go ever deeper into its arsenal, and rely more heavily on irregular forces.”

“Going forward, the regime will likely begin breaking into pieces in the not too distant future. It will fight hardest to hold Aleppo, Damascus, and the Alawite heartland, but in doing so it will lose other regions. The portion of the country fully under government control is shrinking and will shrink more,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, a senior Iranian defense official issued another call to destroy Israel, the latest in a series of genocidal statements issuing from Tehran.

Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads an Iranian military unit in charge of fighting sabotage, said that al-Quds Day, which will be marked by Shiites around the world on Friday, “is an expression of the fact that there is no other way but to stand firm and resist until Israel is destroyed.”

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