Washington: Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad’s government rejected a request by Tehran to conduct a raid in order to rescue Iranians captured by the rebels forces, US officials have claimed.
Syrian rebels detained a bus carrying 48 Iranians as it traveled to Damascus this month.
According to US officials, at least some of those were operatives from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps sent to Syria to train government forces and potentially conduct covert missions to aid the embattled Damascus regime.
US officials familiar with the latest intelligence reports said that Qasem Soleimani, head of the Qods force, the international paramilitary arm of the Revolutionary Guard, directly asked Assad last week to help recover the Iranian operatives or allow Iran to mount its own rescue mission.
According to the US officials, Assad’s regime turned down his request, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Officials revealed that the Assad regime told Tehran that rescuing the Iranians isn't a top priority for Damascus.
According to the paper, some officials suggested that Assad might be reluctant to allow a more-overt Iranian role for fear it could provoke Turkey or Persian Gulf states to deepen their support for the rebels.
Meanwhile, Iranian and Syrian officials have denied the captured Iranians were government operatives, with Tehran calling them religious pilgrims.
First Published: Thursday, August 16, 2012, 12:27