According to the Washington Post, the Obama Administration is accusing the Iranian government of involvement in Syria’s violent crackdown against pro-democracy protesters. The claims were provided by anonymous administration officials.
Among the accusations were that the Iranian government has provided “riot helmets and batons” to the Syrian security forces, and that they deployed trainers to provide details as to how Iran dealt with anti-regime protesters in the wake of the disputed 2009 elections.
Interestingly enough, however, there have been no indications of the Syrian government actually using such equipment in the crackdowns. Instead, most of the serious crackdowns have involved troops, snipers, and tanks rolling into cities full of protesters. Few major protests have seen riot helmet wearing police in any meaningful numbers, and the large death tolls are more a function of the Assad regime’s use of military force instead of riot police tactics.
The Obama Administration has clearly been eager to paint Iran as an opponent in the pro-democracy protests across the region, claiming Iran’s tacit support of Syria while condemning crackdowns in Bahrain is more hypocritical than America’s own tacit support for the Bahrain crackdowns while condemning Syria.
But to the extent the Iranian government is trying to impose a 2009-style reaction on Syria’s crackdown, it has clearly failed. Syria has done very little policing of the protests and has instead relied on overwhelming military might in an attempt to intimidate demonstrators. This hasn’t worked, and Syria may well be keen to listen to Iranian advisers in the wake of what has so far been a largely fruitless crackdown.