x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

An attack on Syria is an attack on Iran, Tehran says

An aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Syria plays a major role in the 'resistance front' of anti-Israel states and militant groups.

TEHRAN // Iran considers any attack against Syria an attack on itself, an adviser to the Islamic republic's supreme leader was quoted as saying yesterday, the strongest warning to date by a top Iranian official that Tehran will use any available means to keep the regime of president Bashar Al Assad in power.

Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Syria played a major role in the "resistance front" of anti-Israel states and militant groups.

"Syria plays a very key role in supporting, or God forbid destabilising, the resistance front. For this same reason, attack on Syria is considered attack on Iran and Iran's allies," Mr Velayati was quoted by the semi-official Mehr news agency as saying.

The comments reflect Iran's commitment to prevent the possible collapse of Mr Al Assad, who is fighting a bloody war with rebels. More than 60,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011, according to the United Nations.

Mr Velayati, Iran's former foreign minister, said Hizbollah and Hamas would have been defeated in wars with Israel without Syrian support.

"If Syria didn't provide logistical support to Hizbollah, Hizbollah and Hamas would have not achieved victory in the 33-day and 22-day wars [respectively]," he said.

He was referring to the 2006 Israel-Hizbollah War and Gaza War during the winter of 2008-2009. Both militant groups claimed victory although Israel has disputed this