"Before our presence in Syria, too many people were killed by the opposition but with the physical and non-physical presence of the Islamic republic, big massacres in Syria were prevented," deputy head of Iran's elite Quds force Ismail Gha'ani said in an interview with the semi-official Isna news agency that was published then removed from its website.
This admission has been corroborated as the WSJ reports that the Quds force—the foreign operations arm of the Revolutionary Guards—is sending IRGC commanders and hundreds of foot soldiers into Syria at a time when Assad's regime is reeling from mass defections, loss of territory and a bombing that devastated its inner circle.
"Today we are involved in fighting every aspect of a war, a military one in Syria and a cultural one as well," IRGC unit commander Gen. Salar Abnoush told volunteer trainees in a Monday speech quoted by WSJ.
"[Quds force Qasim commander Qasim] Solaimani has convinced Mr. Khamenei that Iran's borders extend beyond geographic frontiers, and fighting for Syria is an integral part of keeping the Shiite Crescent intact," said the IRGC member in Tehran. The so-called Crescent, which came together after Saddam Hussein's fall, includes Shiites from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.
Meanwhile a recent New York Times story that initially said "American intelligence agents have helped funnel arms to rebel groups" was changed to "American intelligence agents have helped to identify the rebel groups that receive arms."
In June the NYT cited American officials and Arab intelligence officers to report that CIA operatives were helping funnel weapons such as automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank weapons to opposition groups seen as most friendly to the U.S.
It is unclear if the U.S. has provided arms to the members of al-Qaeda and other foreign jihadist organizations who have established themselves as some of the best fighters in the rebellion.
In March hacked emails for the U.S. security firm Stratfor revealed that the former director of the security firm Blackwater was sent to contact Syrian rebels in Turkey at the request of a U.S. Government committee.
A new study for Congress found that weapons sales by the U.S. tripled in 2011 to a record high because of "major arms sales to Persian Gulf allies concerned about Iran’s regional ambitions," the NYT recently reported.
Syria's Foreign Minister told the Independent that "the US is the major player against Syria and the rest are its instruments."
In his May story Dehghan noted that the Quds force is closely tied to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and responsible for protecting the concept of Islamic revolution.