Iran General NewsEurope accuses Iranian force of aiding Syrian crackdown

Europe accuses Iranian force of aiding Syrian crackdown

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New York Times: The European Union announced on Wednesday that it was leveling sanctions against Iran’s Al Quds military force, saying it had given technical and material support to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria in his efforts to crush the five-month-old uprising against his rule.

The New York Times

By NADA BAKRI

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The European Union announced on Wednesday that it was leveling sanctions against Iran’s Al Quds military force, saying it had given technical and material support to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria in his efforts to crush the five-month-old uprising against his rule.

The move adds the European Union’s imprimatur to charges that Iran has aided Mr. Assad in carrying out a brutal crackdown of pro-democracy activists that the United Nations says has killed 2,200 people since March.

There was no immediate reaction from the Syrian or the Iranian governments about the sanctions, which are the first to single out Iran in connection with the Syrian uprising. The decision was welcomed by activists in Damascus, Syria, who have refused to back down in the face of the crackdown.

“The sanctions are great and very needed,” said an opposition figure from Damascus who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisal. “But I don’t know how much they will help us on the ground to get rid of this regime. It is going to be a long battle.”

The European Union said in a statement published in its official journal that Al Quds, an elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, “provided technical assistance, equipment and support to the Syrian security services to repress civilian protest movements.”

The United States and other countries have also accused Tehran of aiding Mr. Assad’s crackdown. British newspapers have quoted unnamed Western diplomats in recent weeks as saying that Iran was providing riot-control gear and surveillance equipment to the Assad government.

The secretive Al Quds force is an elite and ideologically grounded unit that was created to protect and promote the Iranian revolution. It carries out operations beyond Iran’s borders and was responsible for initially training and arming the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.

The list of sanctions also names five Syrian generals, as well as Hassan Turkmani, a former defense minister and special Assad envoy; Munir Adnuf, the deputy chief of the Syrian Army; and Samir Hassan, a businessman that it identifies as one of the government’s financiers.

In addition the list includes Mr. Assad’s younger brother, Maher, who commands the army’s Fourth Division and is believed to be responsible for much of the bloodshed.

The European Union has now issued sanctions against 50 people and 9 agencies or groups in relation to the Syrian crackdown. The new measures freeze the assets of those named and prevent them from obtaining visas for travel to European Union countries.

European diplomats said additional sanctions were likely to be imposed by the end of the week, including an embargo on imports of Syrian oil, which would be a blow to Syria’s faltering economy. As much as 95 percent of Syrian oil and gas goes to European countries. Britain has expressed reservations against such a move, and several diplomats said China might simply step in to fill the gap.

Syrian security forces, meanwhile, continued the crackdown on protesters, killing at least seven people — six in Homs, in central Syria, and one in Idlib, in the north, according to activists and residents.

Mr. Assad has dismissed the sanctions and other measures of international condemnation, including a call last week by the United States and many European nations for him to step down. He calls such gestures “meaningless” and says his government is facing a foreign conspiracy involving Muslim extremists who are terrorizing Syrians and have killed several hundred police officers and soldiers.

Sana, Syria’s official news agency, published pictures on Wednesday of the decomposing bodies of 14 people, saying “armed terrorist groups” had kidnapped, tortured and then discarded them in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, where some of the biggest protests against Mr. Assad’s rule have taken place.

“There is chaos everywhere, chaos,” said a woman who lives in Homs and was reached by telephone but did not want to provide her name for fear of reprisal. “I don’t know who is doing what anymore; I don’t know anything anymore.”

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