(CNSNews.com) - Iran reportedly is preparing to deploy another 4,000 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps troops to Syria in support of the Bashar al-Assad regime, while Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to continue “to defend Syria and the Syrian people.”
This follows Hezbollah’s involvement in a recent key regime military victory in Qusayr.
“When we are challenged with insults and takfiri ideologies, we become even more convinced and determined,” he said in address in Beirut on Friday. “If they think that we will withdraw and retreat, we are not of the sort.”
(“Takfiri” are Muslims who accuse other Muslims of apostasy; Nasrallah has said the anti-Assad opposition is dominated by radical Sunni “takfiris,” including al-Qaeda.)
In an interview published Monday, Assad warned the West that arming rebels in Syria would lead to future terrorism at home.
His comments, to a German newspaper, were directed mostly at Europe, where Britain and France are leading calls to send military aid to the opposition.
“They are aware that weapons sent to the region will end up in the hands of terrorists, which will have two consequences,” he said. “First, Europe’s back garden will become a hub for terrorism and chaos, which leads to deprivation and poverty; Europe will pay the price and forfeit an important market.
“Second, terrorism will not stop here – it will spread to your countries,” Assad continued. “It will export itself through illegal immigration or through the same terrorists who returned to their original countries after being indoctrinated and trained more potently.”
This is not the first time Assad has warned of grim potential future consequences for the West if it arms the rebels – a situation he has likened to U.S. support for the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan that later spawned al-Qaeda.
While fanning sectarian tensions in the region, the Syrian conflict has also deepened divisions between the West and Russia, whose foreign ministry said Monday that Moscow would “not allow” no-fly zones to be implemented over Syria, as some in the U.S. and Europe are proposing.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated on Monday that while “all options remain on the table, aside from no boots on the ground,” reports that President Obama had “decided on a no-fly zone or there’s an imminent announcement” were inaccurate.
After talks on the sidelines of a G8 summit in Northern Ireland on Monday, Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin both acknowledged the differences between them, while saying they agreed to continue efforts to bring regime and rebel representatives to the negotiating table.
Russia contends that there is no parallel between its provision of weapons and support for what it views as a legitimate government in Damascus, and other countries’ decisions to arm rebels trying to unseat that government.
“I want to stress that Russia supplies arms to the legitimate government of Syria in full compliance with the norms of international law and we call on our partners to act in the same way,” Putin said in London on Sunday. “We are not breaching any rules.”