Syrian rebels captured Iranian Guard members near Damascus fighting for Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad. Iranian News said 48 “pilgrims” were captured.
Syrian rebels said a group of people captured near Damascus included members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to a video broadcast by Al Arabiya, as fighting raged outside the capital and in Aleppo.
The claim contradicted Iranian descriptions of the abducted people as pilgrims. Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi urged Turkey and Qatar, which have backed the Syrian opposition, to help release the captives, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. IRNA said 48 pilgrims were abducted.
Shiite Muslim-led Iran has been the closest regional ally of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which is dominated by officials from the Alawite sect, affiliated with Shiite Islam. Turkey and Qatar are largely Sunni Muslim states, and the rebels are largely drawn from the Sunni majority.
“This is embarrassing for” Assad’s government, Andrew Tabler, author of “In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle with Syria,” said in a phone interview. “It shows the degree to which things have gotten out of hand.”
Al Arabiya television’s video showed the Iranians sitting under a flag of the rebel Free Syria Army and surrounded by armed men. Their confessions as members of the Iranian guard will be posted in a video after interrogations, then a list of demands will be presented for their freedom, Al Jazeera television said, citing Captain Abdel Nasser Shmer, commander of the Free Syrian Army’s Al Baraa Brigade.