Iran confirms sending troops to Syria; death toll at 13,000; White House: Iran engaged in "malignant behavior" in Syria Syria spiraling into civil war.

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    May 28, 2012 1:24 AM GMT
    Iran confirms sending troops to Syria

    Islamic Republic admits its forces are aiding Assad's regime in crackdown on pro-democracy protesters;
    UN's tally of fatalities in Syrian uprising is at 13,000,7340,L-4234608,00.html

    Iran confirmed Sunday that it has, as previously speculated, sent troops to aid President Bashar Assad's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in his country.

    The United Nations and human rights groups estimate that over 13,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in March 2011 – 9,200 of them civilians.

    "If the Islamic Republic was not present in Syria, the massacre of civilians would have been twice as bad," General Ismail Qa'ani, deputy-commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force, told Tehran's ISNA news agency.

    Iran, he added, "Had physically and non-physically stopped the rebels from killing many more among the Syrian people."

    This was a rare admission by an Iranian official that Tehran was truly aiding the Damascus regime.

    The quote was later removed from ISNA's website.

    Sunday's statement was particularly strident, as it followed the brutal killing of 92 people, including 32 children, in Houla, in the embattled province of Homs, by Damascus' forces.
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    May 29, 2012 10:19 PM GMT
    Western Nations, Protesting Killings, Expel Syrian Envoys

    Western nations expelled senior Syrian diplomats on Tuesday in a hardened and coordinated condemnation of the weekend massacre of more than 100 villagers in Syria, nearly half of them children.

    ...Witnesses to the massacre, including a survivor who was wounded and left for dead, said most of the killing was conducted by pro-government militiamen, Mr. Colville said, adding that they sometimes appeared to operate in concert with government security forces. Witness accounts described how some militiamen went through houses chanting, "Shabiha for you, Assad," Mr. Colville said in an interview, using a term for pro-government thugs.

    The aftermath of the killings continued to reverberate inside Syria. Shops, including the famous Hamadiyah bazaar of Damascus, stayed shut as part of an opposition-led call to observe three days of mourning, according to opposition activists and residents. Damascus has been a bastion of government support. The activists and residents said government agents forced some stores to reopen, particularly in the nut and candy bazaar, by prying open their metal shutters.
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    Jun 01, 2012 12:55 PM GMT
    White House: Iran engaged in "malignant behavior" in Syria

    (Reuters) - The White House on Thursday accused Iran of "malignant behavior" for propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and warned anew that the country's conflict could explode into a wider proxy war unless Assad steps down.

    In sharp comments toward Tehran, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that Iran was exploiting the violence in Syria to entrench its regional sway.

    "That fact further highlights Iran's continued effort to expand its nefarious influence in the region, and underscores Iran's fear of a Syria without the Assad regime," he told reporters at the White House.

    European and U.S. security officials say Iran has offered Assad extensive support, including weapons and ammunition, to shore up a vital ally.

    Carney's comments came amid growing concern in some world capitals that the Syrian bloodshed could devolve further into a proxy war - with Iran being only one of the outside players.

    The Gulf state of Qatar, a close friend of Washington, has provided weapons to the Syrian opposition, according to Western officials, and there have been hints Saudi Arabia has done likewise. Some U.S. politicians want President Barack Obama to arm the opposition, with pressure hardening after a weekend massacre blamed on Assad.

    Also, human rights groups and Western officials told Reuters on Thursday that a Russian cargo ship heavily laden with weapons docked at the Syrian port of Tartus last weekend.

    Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on Wednesday laid out a worst-case scenario in which Syria, a mainly Sunni Muslim country whose Alawite leader is allied to Shi'ite Iran, could become a proxy conflict, prompting world powers to take unilateral action.

    Carney, claiming that Iran was engaged in "malignant behavior" in Syria, said the international community must up pressure for Assad to leave to stop the conflict from widening.

    He said Washington was working with the Russians, who together with China have previously vetoed tougher UN Security Council action against Assad, to persuade them of the "horrific" risks of allowing the conflict to escalate.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has given no sign that he will drop Moscow's opposition to tougher sanctions or related action against Syria.

    "The consequences of not taking that firm action are more violence, violence that spills over Syria's borders, violence that results in even greater participation in this by Iran...and others, to the point that it becomes a proxy war," Carney said.

    Washington is separately pushing, along with European allies, for Tehran to curb its nuclear program, which the West says is secretly pursuing an atomic bomb but Iran insists is purely for peaceful purposes.
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    Jun 04, 2012 11:36 PM GMT
    Syria violence flares after rebel deadline

    06/04/2012 16:30

    Rebels apparently follow through on threat to attack Assad's troops if ceasefire not recognized by gov't, 80 soldiers killed.

    BEIRUT - Syrian rebels killed at least 80 army soldiers at the weekend, an opposition watchdog said on Monday, in a surge of attacks that followed their threat to resume fighting if President Bashar Assad failed to observe a UN-backed ceasefire.

    The latest violence and Assad's defiant speech to parliament on Sunday raised questions about how long UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan can realistically pursue his threadbare peace plan.

    ...Some commanders in the rebel Free Syrian Army had announced last week they would be "free of any commitment" to Annan's peace plan if Assad did not end violence by Friday.

    The May 25 massacre of at least 108 people, nearly half of them children, in the Houla area of Homs province dealt a possibly fatal blow to Annan's proposed ceasefire, which was supposed to take effect on April 12 but never did.

    A Syrian troop pullback was at the top of Annan's six-point plan to halt hostilities, allow peaceful protests, supply humanitarian aid and start a political transition in a country controlled by the Assad family with an iron fist for 42 years.

    "The Annan mission is essentially dead, and of course most Western powers admit that," said Michael Stephens, researcher at the Royal United Services Institute's branch in Qatar.

    "Houla changed the game completely in terms of what people were willing to accept and what they were not."
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    Jun 07, 2012 4:58 AM GMT
    At least 78 killed in Syria's Hama province

    Some of those killed were stabbed to death, at least 40 of the victims women and children, activists say; killings come less than 2 weeks after massacre in Houla.

    Syrian forces had been shelling Mazraat al-Qabeer and the nearby village of Maazarif, which are around 20 km (12 miles) from the central city of Hama.

    "Shabbiha [thugs backing the Syrian Assad government] headed into the area after the shelling and killed dozens of citizens, among them women and children," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, describing a similar pattern of events as recounted from the Houla massacre on May 25.

    Both massacres have happened in the presence of United Nations observers, a 300-strong force sent into Syria to observe a ceasefire deal brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan.