It has become “a matter of great concern” to the US that Iran appears to be stepping up its support of the regime in Syria with shipments of increasingly sophisticated equipment as well as personnel into the country, Hillary Clinton said before stepping down tonight as Secretary of State.
Ms Clinton highlighted the Syrian crisis and Iran’s efforts to keep the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in power as one of the biggest challenges for her successor, John Kerry, who takes over today. She also repeated her allegation that Russia is also quietly supporting Damascus.
Her comments came as controversy continued to mount over a bombing raid inside Syria’s borders by Israeli warplanes last week. Syria has claimed that the raid damaged a military research centre north-west of Damascus while the US says that a convoy of lorries headed for Lebanon was hit. Israel has kept silent about the incident. Both Russia and Iran have publicly condemned the action.
“We have reason to believe that the Russians continue to supply financial and military assistance in the form of equipment,” Ms Clinton said. She also voiced frustration that Russia has blocked progress at the United Nations towards a peaceful transition in Syria. The “Russians are not passive bystanders,” she added.
Iran is sending Damascus both weapons and personnel, including military advisers, she said. “It appears they may be increasing that involvement and that is a matter of great concern to us... There is a lot of concern that they are increasing the quality of the weapons, because Assad is using up his weaponry.” Iran, she added, is also aiding Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militant group backing Assad.