Iran will defend Assad regime if US intervenes

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will defend Syria due to its support for the line of resistance against the Zionist regime and is strongly opposed to any intervention by foreign forces in Syria’s internal affairs,” Khamenei said Thursday. 

The Syrian uprising, as well as others that have swept across the Middle East as part of the Arab Spring movement have "so far been ... in the interests of Islam and Muslims," Khamenei said. 

“At this critical juncture in the region, the most important issue is that independent countries make correct decisions," he added. 

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His remarks came after a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held in Mashhad, located in Iran's Razavi Khorasan Province. 

Erdogan also sat down with CIA chief David Petraeus on March 14 to discuss the growing crisis in Syria. 

Iranian and Russian forces are reportedly on the ground already in Syria, assisting government troops in their brutal crackdown on rebel forces. 

As Tehran prepares to increase its involvement in Syria, Washington is still debating whether to commit U.S. military support to Syrian rebels. 

The issue was front and center during today's Senate confirmation hearing of key Defense Department officials. 

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) pressed White House nominee and acting Undersecretary for Defense for Policy Jim Miller on the government's bloody crackdown on rebels in Syria. 

There is "growing international pressure and domestic pressure, including from some of us up here, for some kind of external assistance ... to the Syrian opposition," Lieberman said. 

Both senators introduced a resolution on Wednesday calling for the United States to provide weapons and supplies to anti-government forces. 

"What might [we] be able to do that would allow us to disrupt Assad's command and control over his own forces," Lieberman asked. 

Miller noted that it was "in the interest of the Syrian people and of the international community that the Assad regime leave power." 

But arming the rebel forces was still a bridge too far for the Pentagon and the White House. 

DOD is still concerned that any U.S. weapons shipped to Syria may fall into the hands of al Qaeda or other fundamentalists groups that have infiltrated the rebel ranks, according to Miller. 

"One needs to consider where that [military support] and to whom that would be provided and what would be the ultimate disposition of any equipment," Miller said. 

"The answer to that question could evolve, depending on what happens on the ground," he added. 

The nominee did note that the United States was moving ahead with providing nonlethal assistance, in terms of food and temporary shelters, to the Syrian rebels. 

In response, McCain retorted that he was sure "that people are being slaughtered in the streets of Homs and Hama ... are very grateful for the food and tents."