The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ordered his government’s elite Quds Force to step up terror attacks in the west as punishment for their efforts to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
According to a report in Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, citing Western intelligence officials, Khamenei recently held an emergency meeting of Iran's National Security Council in Tehran to ponder the impact of the potential overthrow of the Assad regime.
The Quds Force, which reports directly to Khamenei, is a prestigious unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The unit reportedly comprises some 15,000 members.
Iran is about the only Middle eastern nation that Assad can call an ally, as the Sunni Arab world has turned resolutely against the Damascus regime since the Syrian revolt erupted more than one and half years ago.
Assad, a member of the Shia Muslim-linked Alawite minority in Syria, rules over a Sunni Muslim majority. Iran is the dominant Shia power in the region. Moreover, Iran views Syria has a key partner with respect to its control of the Hezbollah militancy in southern Lebanon.
Iranian operatives have already been identified as actively assisting Assad.
Earlier this month, Syrian opposition forces captured four dozen Iranians, including an officer of the Revolutionary Guard, who were apparently advising Assad on how to stamp out the rebellion.
Reportedly, Khamenei believes that moves by the United Nations to support Syrian opposition groups and to remove Assad threatens Iranian interest. The Tehran government is already reeling from sanctions imposed on its oil industry in retaliation for Iran’s alleged nuclear power program.
The Telegraph reported that Khameini has directed the commander of the Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, to intensify terror attacks against the West and its allies.
The Quds force has already been linked to a number of high-profile attacks in foreign countries -- including an attempt to murder the Saudi Arab ambassador to Washington last year, and three bomb attacks on Israeli diplomats earlier this year.
"[Quds Force’] Unit 400 seems to have been involved in all the recent Iranian terrorist operations," a senior Western intelligence official, told the paper.
"The Iranian regime now seems determined to retaliate for what they regard as the West's attempts to influence the outcome of the Syrian unrest."