Many of the 48 Iranian men captured in Syria on August 4 who
claimed to be religious pilgrims are in fact active-duty Iranian
Revolutionary Guard members, multiple U.S. officials tell Fox News.
Members of the Free Syrian Army captured the group while they traveled on a bus in Damascus.
According to these officials, top members of the Iranian government
have reached out to President Bashar Assad to help secure their release.
The Iranians say these men were on a Shiite pilgrimage visiting the
Sayyida Zeinab shrine, a holy Shiite site in the suburbs of Damascus.
Syria’s state television claimed the men were captured by an “armed terrorist group.”
But U.S. officials, who spoke to Fox News on the condition of
anonymity, say these men were not on a pilgrimage; rather, they were
there to offer support for the Assad regime.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday, “it’s obvious Iran is
playing a larger role in Syria in many ways.” Panetta said there is
evidence not only that Iranians are providing training and assistance to
the Syrian Army, but that they are trying to “develop a militia to be
able to fight on behalf of the regime.”
Panetta described Iran’s growing influence as a “deep concern” for the United States.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said this
Iranian support is… >>>