U.S. officials say Iran is dispatching increasing numbers of trainers and advisers — including members of its elite Quds Force — into Syria to help crush anti-government demonstrations that are threatening to topple Iran’s most important ally in the region.
The influx of Iranian manpower is adding to a steady stream of aid from Tehran that includes not only weapons and riot gear but also sophisticated surveillance equipment that is helping Syrian authorities track down opponents through their Facebook and Twitter accounts, the sources said. Iranian-assisted computer surveillance is believed to have led to the arrests of hundreds of Syrians seized from their homes in recent weeks.
Assad announced with great fanfare that he was lifting the country’s ban on the use of social media such as Facebook and YouTube. While widely hailed at the time, the move gave Assad’s security police an Iranian-inspired tool for tracking down leaders of the protest movement, said Andrew Tabler, a former Syria-based journalist who is a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.