TEHRAN — Iran acknowledged for the first time it has elite forces present in Syria and Lebanon as “counsellors.”
Members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are providing non-military assistance in Syria and Iran may get involved militarily if its closest ally comes under attack, commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari said Sunday.
“A number of members of the Qods force are present in Syria but this does not constitute a military presence,” Iranian news agency ISNA quoted Jafari as saying at a news conference.
Qods is an IRGC unit set up to export Iran’s ideology. It has been accused of plotting attacks inside Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Jafari did not indicate how many IRGC members were in Syria but said they were providing “intellectual and advisory help”.
Jafari also said Iran would change its policy and offer military backing if Syria came under attack.
“I say specifically that if Syria came under military attack, Iran would also give military support but it ... totally depends on the circumstances,” he said.
The relentless violence affected the start Sunday of the educational year in Syria, with activists saying few schools opened in flashpoint areas, including Aleppo, and the UN reporting more than than 2,000 schools damaged or destroyed countrywide since the uprising began 18 months ago. – Agencies