What others say: Iran's potential Syrian involvement may force U.S. policy change

By Dale McFeatters

Scripps Howard News Service

Published: Friday, Aug. 31 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

In this July 6, 2012 file photo, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius attend the "Friends of Syria" conference in Paris. The United States is readying new sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and its allies as Clinton heads to Turkey on Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, for weekend talks with top Turkish officials and Syrian opposition activists.

Brendan Smialowski, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

This week, French President Francois Hollande called on the fragmented Syrian opposition to unite and form a provisional government in exile. If it did, he said, France would quickly recognize it and presumably so might some other European and Arab nations.

But not the United States. According to the Associated Press, talk of a provisional government is premature considering how deeply divided the opposition is, united only by a consuming desire to oust the government of Bashar al-Assad.

However, the umbrella opposition group, the Syrian National Council, unveiled a blueprint this week outlining a transition to a democratic, secular government.

News agencies are reporting developments that might force the U.S. to significantly change its position on a provisional government and outside military intervention in favor of the rebels.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran is dispatching commanders and troops from its elite Revolutionary Guard Corps to Syria, along with members of the Basij, plainclothes thugs the Tehran regime uses to keep order.

"Today we are involved in fighting every aspect of war, a military one in Syria and a cultural one as well," Iranian Gen. Salar Abnoush told a group of volunteers in a speech reported by a local news agency.

The Guards are reportedly assigned to noncombat roles like running bases and guarding arsenals, but that role could change at any time as the Assad regime becomes increasingly desperate.

A group of 48 Iranians was kidnapped in Syria by the opposition. Ostensibly they were pilgrims, but Iran now admits that some of them are retired members of the Guards. Members of the Iranian opposition say they, and possibly others in the group, are active Guards commanders.

Iran was a cheerleader all through the Arab Spring, comparing the uprisings favorably to its own 1979 revolution. That was conspicuously not the case with Syria, one of Iran's few friends in the region and its lifeline to the radical Hezbollah in Lebanon.

An active Iranian military role in Syria would force the U.S. and other nations to rethink their policy of not intervening militarily in Syria. What might begin as enforcing no-fly zones along the Turkish border and establishing secure refugee havens in northern Syria might quickly broaden into active military support for the rebels.

The best outcome for us and the Syrian opposition is if the Assad regime falls before that becomes necessary,

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