A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander reportedly made a revealing remark last week, saying Syrian President Bashar Assad is "fighting this war (in Syria) as our deputy."
The comment, made by Brig. Gen. Hossein Hamedani, clearly implies that Iran is orchestrating what happens in Syria. Hamedani further said 130,000 Iranian fighters are "ready to be deployed" in Syria if the war rages on.
Hamedani's statements were reported by the Iranian state-controlled Fars News last Sunday, but were quickly removed from the website. Naame Shaam, an independent news site opposing Assad's regime, revealed the deleted report last Thursday.
Hamedani added that his country's role in Syria is a "sacred defense" of Iran, referring to a term used in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
The commander further noted that "centers for supporting Syrian people" are being established in Iranian provinces, centers that are suspected of being used to raise funds and spread propaganda about Syria.
Speaking about the Iranian trained Syrian National Defense Forces, Hamedani described them as numbering roughly 70,000 fighters, organized in 42 groups and 128 battalions. Iran has established a "second Hezbollah" in Syria he said, referring to the Iranian terror proxy in Lebanon.
The comments come as Iran gears up for a new round of talks with world powers over its nuclear program on Wednesday. Those talks have been set back by, among other things, the fact that Iran is having troubling explaining its need for detonators that could be used for a nuclear bomb.
They also come as campaigning began in Syria for a June 3 presidential election pitting Assad against two opponents, in the midst of the raging war.